Interview with Daniel Schorr
QUESTION 1
PAUL STECKLER:

Tell me about the press conference and what happened.

DANIEL SCHORR:

February 7th, Martin Luther King came to Washington and he gave a press conference, to announce that there was going to a Poor People's March on Washington, a march that he would not live to lead. At this press conference network reporters, including myself, constantly pushed him to try to say something as militant as possible. We were interested in getting the kind of sound bytes that would get on the evening news. And in fact as I went back over the script of that day, I realized that we did get him to say things like, "The first phase of this march would be educational and then if that didn't work that it would be disruptive, that they were going to stay in Washington until they got a response." When the press conference was over, I was waiting for my camera crew to pack up and saw Reverend King sitting there looking somewhat disconsolate. And I walked up to him, sitting at the table there and asked why he s--seemed to be so mournful and he said, "Well it's because of what you people in television are doing," he said. "I don't know if you are aware of it but you keep driving people like me, who are non-violent, into saying more and more militant things and if we don't say things militantly enough for you, we don't get on the evening news. And who does? Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. By doing this, you are first of all, selecting the more militant Black leaders to be Civil Rights leaders, because everybody sees your television programs, and secondly, you're putting a premium on violence." That gave me a lot of think about.



PAUL STECKLER:

You can probably, I think you can probably take it, take it, um, from "The press conference ended..."

DANIEL SCHORR:

Okay. When the press conference was over, I waited for my camera crew to pack up. I'd come with them. And the room was empty by this time but the Reverend King sat at the table, looking rather reflectively out and a little mournfully I thought. And I walked up to him and said, "Excuse me, you don't seem very happy." He said, "No, I'm not very happy and, uh, you're part of the reason why I'm not very happy." What did that mean? And then he said, almost verbatim, but not necessarily verbatim, he said, "I don't know whether you people realize what you're doing when you try to poke at me, trying to get me to say something about disruption and about possible violence and about blocking bridges and about scaring all the White folk here in Washington. Ah, that may be what you need today, but by selecting that and by selecting people who say that, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, you are appointing our Black leaders and they are not necessarily the non-violent ones. And you're also putting a premium on militant statements and perhaps militant action. And if that's what you want to do he said, well you go ahead and do it. But it's not what we're here to do."