- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The editor of the Nation of Islam’s weekly newspaper has resigned in the wake of the publication of a story asserting that the family of Martin Luther King suspects that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was “complicit” in the 1968 assassination of the civil rights leader.

James G. Muhammad submitted his resignation after issuing a public apology, ending his 11-year tenure at the Final Call, the paper published by Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. Mr. Muhammad declined to talk about the retraction yesterday.

The retraction and apology appeared in this week’s edition of the Final Call.

The article, written by Eric Ture Muhammad and Donna Muhammad, ran as the lead story under the headline “SCLC, King family seek to set record straight about King assassination.” The story focused on the 45th annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held earlier this month in Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated.

“I failed in my responsibility to look deeply into the allegations presented in this article,” Mr. Muhammad wrote. “And it has caused distress to the families of Dr. King, Rev. Jackson … Min. Farrakhan and untold others.”

The newspaper had reported that in 1998, Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, her son Dexter King, the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young requested a new federal investigation into the assassination in a two-hour meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno.

“They demanded a new federal investigation into the King assassination, based on new evidence that had come to their attention. The family alleges that the Reverends Jesse L. Jackson and Samuel Billy Kyles are complicit in the assassination of Dr. King,” the newspaper reported of the April 8, 1998, meeting.

In a speech at the Memphis conference, Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, noted the 1999 civil case in which his family challenged the prevailing theory that James Earl Ray, who had confessed to the shooting of the civil rights leader, was truly to blame.

“Biblically, we are told that ‘ye shall know the truth, and that the truth shall set you free,’” Mr. King is quoted as saying in the Final Call article. “But we are not yet ready to deal with the truth, because it’s painful. It sometimes, maybe, could be devastating. What truth am I talking about?

“We came here engaged in a civil suit [in 1999]. Seventy overwhelming witnesses were called to testify about who killed Martin Luther King Jr. America, and some here, say it was James Earl Ray. But James Earl Ray was just an unknowing patsy.”

A jury concluded in 1999 that there was a conspiracy to murder the civil rights leader and that Ray was designated to take the fall.

The Final Call’s retraction said the inaccurate information concerning Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kyles, which was included midway through the original article, had “no basis in fact or proof.”

“The King family has never said that,” said Robert Vickers, a spokesman for the King Center in Atlanta.

“The story attributed it to the King family, but Eric Muhammad indicated in a [later] conversation with us that it really came from trial transcripts. What the family did say is that it had taken this issue as far as it can, and now it was up to [the public and reporters].”

Mr. Jackson is “very upset” about the article, said a source near the King family. Mr. Jackson did not return calls seeking comment.

In addition to the retraction and apology, the Final Call added a story on its Web site Friday in which Mr. Fauntroy, who led a House subcommittee that investigated the King assassination in 1978, contradicted the earlier article. “There is no evidence that our committee uncovered, that implicated in any way the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson or Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles in the conspiracy to kill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said.

Mr. Kyles is pastor of Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis and a Clinton appointee to the Advisory Committee for Religious Freedom Abroad. He did not return calls yesterday.

Several phone numbers obtained for one of the article’s authors, Eric Ture Muhammad, a one-time spokesman for former Rep. Cynthia A.. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, were disconnected, and he did not respond to e-mail inquiries.

His personal Web site includes several references to the jury findings in the Kings’ 1999 case. “For more than 35 years, practically no challenge from the masses of the people — those who benefited from Dr. King’s work most — to solve the murder and bring the surviving culprits to justice,” Mr. Muhammad writes in a posting, adding that among blacks there is a “leadership who pimps the legacy of Dr. King for personal gain.”

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