Republican Rep. Mike Kelly may have just set a new record for the most absurd misuse of Martin Luther King's words in political history.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly offered an unusual citation while trying to defend the auto industry against overwhelming evidence of discrimination: slain civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kelly was shut down by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on the floor of the House last week for claiming he knew more about discrimination in auto lending than she did, and that it doesn’t exist. That moment that went viral, and Kelly went on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning to try to push back on the criticism.
Kelly noted that credit-worthiness in the banking industry is based on “the ‘five Cs.'” And then he bizarrely brought up King.
“None of those Cs, by the way, haves anything to do with color,” Kelly said. “The color of a person’s skin has nothing to do, but the content of their character does. That is Martin Luther King, not me.”
King was, of course, not referring to auto lending practices, but rather to his hope that racial discrimination would one day end.
Unfortunately, the auto lending business provides ample evidence that discrimination has not ended. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s investigation found that non-white customers paid $150-$300 more in interest than white customers. That discrepancy was the result of discretionary dealer markups, not credit scores.
A more recent study by the National Fair Housing Alliance sent pairs of undercover customers to eight car dealerships in eastern Virginia. That effort produced some key findings:
• 62.5 percent of the time, Non-White testers who were more qualified than their White
counterparts received more costly pricing options.
• On average, Non-White testers who experienced discrimination would have paid an
average of $2,662.56 more over the life of the loan than less-qualified White testers.
• 75 percent of the time, White testers were offered more financing options than NonWhite
• Dealers offered to help bring down interest rates and car prices using incentives and
rebates or by making phone calls to personal contacts for White testers more often than
they did for Non-White testers.
The report also summarizes almost 30 years of detailed research demonstrating racial discrimination in auto lending. There have been tens of millions of dollars in discrimination settlements since the rule went into effect in 2013.
None of this was enough to stop Republicans from rescinding an Obama-era regulation meant to protect against this sort of discrimination. They used the obscure Congressional Review Act to get around Democratic resistance to the measure.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was so proud of the resolution, he posed for a picture of himself signing it.
Republican efforts to strip away these important protections demonstrate that Trump’s brand of racism is no outlier in the party. And Kelly’s blatant misuse of Martin Luther King’s words shows the offensive lengths they’ll go to while trying to defend themselves.