In a review of Taylor Branch's biography of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Slate Magazine repeats a story that can be found in several places on the web:

On Jan. 6, 1964, FBI men installed microphones in King's Washington, D.C., hotel room and turned on the tape recorder. According to officials who heard the tapes, King that night betrayed his wife, Coretta--not for the first or the last time--shouting, amid his most private activities, "I'm fucking for God!" and "I'm not a Negro tonight!" Later that year, agents anonymously shipped King "a 'highlight' recording of bugged sex groans and party jokes" along with a letter warning him: "You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation." They called it the "suicide package."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also report on the "Suicide Letter" sent by the FBI.

Is it true that King committed adultery while under surveillance?

  • 7
    If so, it says more about the FBI than it does about King. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 13:19
  • 1
    I haven't downvoted, but I don't see the point in this question. Is anyone skeptical that the FBI conducted unjustified surveillance on MLK, or that he may have had an affair? If not, do we really want to know the specific details?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


Many sources conclude that the FBI have documentation of MLK's adultery, and many sources conclude that he was an adulterer.

All information comes from the FBI and filtered through Lyndon B. Johnson. Consider the atmosphere of the country - there was a civil rights movement taking place and J. Edgar Hoover was extremely fervor in his collection of data on everything ranging from Communists, Terrorists, and Activists. Former President Harry Truman stated:

Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. Truman stated that "we want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him".

  • "God-----it, if only you could hear what that hypocritical preacher does sexually." -Lyndon B Johnson

    LBJ, the President during the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, reviewed all of the material the FBI collected on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was found during the FBI's searches for communism and surveillance on civil activists.

  • According to Time Magazine, yes, the FBI taped MLK's extramarital affairs.

    Shortly after Johnson took office, the transcript and tapes of Martin Luther King's bedroom activities were spirited to him. He read the accounts, which an aide described as being "like an erotic book." He listened to the tapes that even had the noises of the bed-springs.

  • Michael Eric Dyson's book, "I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.," concludes it is widely known that King was a womanizing adulterer. Again, Dyson comes to the leader’s defense. He asserts that the reformer’s “relationship with Coretta symbolizes the difficulty faced by black leaders who attempted to forge a healthy life with their loved ones while the government aimed its huge resources at destroying their families...”

    The author agrees that MLK had an extramarital affair - and the US Government had its hand in a smear campaign against him.

  • Of course we have the "Suicide Letter" itself:

    FBI Suicide Letter to MLK

    FBI Agent William Sullivan, one of Hoover's deputies, "apparently took it upon himself to write the anonymous letter and sent an agent to Miami, to mail the package to Atlanta," Beverly Gage wrote in the Times. William Sullivan was a leader on COINTELPRO under J. Edgar Hoover, providing counter-intelligence towards many civil rights activists.


It is extremely plausible that MLK was indeed an adulterer, and that the FBI has evidence of such activity. The article mentioned below can help sum it all up best:

The Hollywood Reporter article, "Selma and the Sex Tape Controversy," reveals:

Garrow says exactly what material the FBI "included on the 'highlights' reel is specifically unknowable," but that both scripts take their own liberties with the truth. "I acquired a pretty detailed understanding of what was on the surviving tapes," says Garrow. "It probably was King on the tape," says Chuck Fager, King's colleague and Selma jail cellmate.

  • 1
    Your opening line is tautological. We know he might have committed adultery. It is unfalsifiable. The question is whether he was recorded by the FBI while doing it. In what way is this confirmation bias?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 14:50
  • LBJ doesn't claim it is true because LBJ claims it to be true. LBJ claimed it was true based on his review of FBI tapes, that are classified until 2027.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 14:52
  • 3
    You seem to reject argument by an apologist for King who agrees with the claim, because he is "such an author". That is an ad hominem fallacy.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 14:56
  • "I would remain skeptical of such a devious plot against a figurehead - who was actually 'doing his job'." - It is not clear what this means.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 14:57
  • 2
    I think you have shown convincingly that some people claim that this is true, but we only have their word for it. If that's all the proof we have, then your conclusion should be "there is no evidence" not "more than likely"
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 23:43

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