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Kamala Harris under fire, accused of plagiarizing MLK anecdote in childhood story about ‘fweedom’

Sen. Kamala Harris came under fire after it appeared an anecdote she shared about her childhood was strikingly similar to one first told by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The California Democrat and potential vice president was accused of plagiarism for retelling a story in an Elle magazine interview from October in which she recounted accompanying her parents as a toddler when they attended events during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But her retelling of one rally and her demand for “fweedom” set off a wave of attacks for its similarity to a story told by King decades ago.

“Senator Kamala Harris started her life’s work young,” Ashley C. Ford began in the Elle feature on Harris published in October, before the 2020 election.

“She laughs from her gut, the way you would with family, as she remembers being wheeled through an Oakland, California, civil rights march in a stroller with no straps with her parents and her uncle. At some point, she fell from the stroller … and the adults, caught up in the rapture of protest, just kept on marching. By the time they noticed little Kamala was gone and doubled back, she was understandably upset,” Ford continued as Harris picked up the storyline.

(Image: CNBC screenshot)

“My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing,” the Democrat 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.’”

The resurfaced interview caught the attention of some on Twitter where it was noted that King had shared a strangely similar anecdote in a 1965 interview published in Playboy.

“I will never forget a moment in Birmingham when a White policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother,” King said in that interview. “‘What do you want?’ the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked at him straight in the eye and answered, ‘Fee-dom.’ She couldn’t even pronounce it, but she knew. It was beautiful! Many times when I have been in sorely trying situations, the memory of that little one has come into my mind, and has buoyed me.”

As the criticism against Harris unfolded on social media, writer Cameron Cawthorne noted that the Democrat had also used the “fweedom” story in two of her books.

Some Twitter users felt that Harris was a “perfect match” for Joe Biden, who lost his first presidential run back in 1987 after he was beset by allegations of plagiarism.

As the backlash against Harris mounted, the hashtag #Fweedom began trending on Twitter where users did not hold back.

Frieda Powers

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