Denver Republican Party Chairwoman Kristina Cook issued a statement on Thursday addressing a Facebook comment she made about civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
“I bet Dr. King wishes he would’ve had a sniper on his side,” she wrote in a message that circulated on social media this week.
Someone attached her words to what Cook told Denverite was a three-year-old photo of her holding an AR-15 firearm. The spliced image sparked outcry on Twitter. Cook said the comment had been photoshopped to appear as if she had written it directly under the photo, but she did not. However, the comment did stem from a conversation thread that included the photo of Cook with the gun.
In a statement Thursday, Cook claimed the Facebook comment was her way of suggesting King should have “had a protective detail on that day so that he’d still be with us.” King, who famously preached and practiced nonviolence, was fatally shot in 1968 while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis.
Cook did not apologize for her comments. She expressed regret for posting them — after King’s daughter, Bernice A. King, suggested on Twitter that the GOP chair was using her late father to spread political pro-gun messaging.
Listen to his speech, ‘I’ve Been To The Mountaintop,’ delivered the evening before he was assassinated. My father knew his time on earth was short. He stood by his nonviolent philosophy. He would not have wanted a gun battle on his behalf. Don’t use him for this.
In her statement, Cook blamed the internet meme for general worldwide divisiveness.
“We could use Dr. Martin Luther King’s presence in this divided world,” she wrote in her statement. “Doctored memes like the one being circulated of me only serve to increase the division, when in a case like this both sides share the same ultimate respect for Dr. King.”
Cook said she has received dozens of messages and calls to the party headquarters calling for her resignation. She attempted to contact Bernice A. King through Facebook.
Cook said the Facebook comment stemmed from a public post made on another person’s page about the MLK parade in Denver.
Cook said the Facebook comments stemmed from a public post on another person’s page that mentioned her. During the course of that conversation, Denver Young Democrats President Justine Sandoval posted the photo of Cook holding the firearm and asked if she was the person holding the online conversation. That conversation led to Cook’s eventual comment about MLK.
Sandoval said someone doctored the image to make it appear like the comment was made in relation to the photo. She tweeted out the doctored image on Tuesday, garnering thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets.
“I was shocked that she said that,” Sandoval said, adding that she felt like it was something that needed to be seen.
Cook said in her statement that Bernice A. King’s tweet on Wednesday helped her understand her suggestion would “not have been her father’s wish.”
“I will also be issuing a public response to her tweet following an opportunity to speak with her further,” Cook said in her statement.