The Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon welcomed the election of Barack Obama in the great Tasmanian town of Launceston.

“45 years ago Martin Luther King dreamed of an America where men and women will be judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character,” the Prime Minister declared.

“Today what America has done is turn that dream into a reality.”

Ah, true. Fine words.

Except … a Crikey reader who saw the initial reports immediately after the press conference was sure Rudd said “25 years ago.” Which would put King’s famous speech in 1983, round about the time when Ronald Reagan was agreeing that the late Dr King should be honoured with a national public holiday. Rumours that Reagan thought it was to celebrate the day Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the Lincoln Memorial are wholly untrue.

The transcript issued by the Prime Minister’s Office says “45 years ago.” As do local media reports … now.

Except, there’s something a little odd. Google Rudd’s remarks and you can see that “25” appears to have originally been used by The Age and The Oz, but click through to the actual stories either 45 is used or the quote is omitted.

Clearly some other people heard “25”. The Poms and AFP, for starters.

Ah well, perhaps the Prime Minister misspoke, and that’s no sin. A bit naughty to change the transcript, however. But given Barack Obama wouldn’t have been overly impressed by an Australian Prime Minister who appeared not to know the basics about the man who was, until Wednesday, the most important African-American political figure in US history, a little hasty editing probably spared some blushes.

Peter Fray

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