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Kamala Harris under fire for appearing to lift childhood anecdote from Martin Luther King interview

Dates, locations do not match up.

Updated: January 5, 2021 - 1:34pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Kamala Harris, set to become the next U.S. vice president, is weathering criticism for appearing to have possibly lifted an inspiring childhood anecdote from a 1965 Playboy interview with Martin Luther King Jr. 

In an October 2020 interview with Elle Magazine, Harris shared what she claimed was a story from her childhood, one in which her family attended a civil rights march in Oakland. 

Harris said in the interview that during the march she was riding in a stroller and fell out.

"My mother tells the story about how I'm fussing," she told the magazine, "and she's like, 'Baby, what do you want? What do you need?' And I just looked at her and I said, 'Fweedom.'"

That story bears a striking resemblance to one told by King during a 1965 interview with Playboy Magazine. 

"I never will forget a moment in Birmingham," King said in that interview, "when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. 'What do you want?' the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked him straight in the eye and answered, 'Fee-dom.'" 

"She couldn't even pronounce it, but she knew. It was beautiful!" King added. 

It is unclear whether Harris and King's stories are just strikingly similar, if Harris was mistakenly conflating the two, or if she was attempting to pass King's story off as her own. The Biden transition team did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter. 

Though King did not specify in his 1965 interview when the exchange between the girl and the policeman took place, the Birmingham civil rights campaign took place in 1963, a year before Harris was born.