Mecham, Jackson debate holiday issue on TV


Phoenix — Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham (left) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson shake hands during a recent news conference in Phoenix. Today, Mecham and Jackson sparred verbally over the Martin Luther Kind Day holiday. Mecham rescinded the holiday for state employees, but several entities, including the City of Flagstaff and Flagstaff Public Schools, observed the day today.

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Evan Mecham said today he does not understand why people who want to honor Martin Luther King Jr. are insisting that everybody else do the same.

The Republican governor, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, was labeled a “dream buster” by Jackson, who said Mecham will not succeed in opposing efforts to establish a King holiday in Arizona.

Mecham repeated his insistence that he had to cancel the Arizona holiday for state workers established by executive order last year by then Gov. Bruce Babbitt because Babbitt did not have the legal authority to set such a holiday.

Mecham has asked the Legislature to approve a referendum on whether Arizona should have a King holiday.

Mecham said, “I don’t understand the insistence by those who to want honor Dr King, who insist that everybody do so. I think that any observance, a tribute, an honor, has to be bestowed, not forced. I don’t see the hassle on all this.”

Jackson said, “Gov. Mecham, in a real sense has tried to turn back the hand of time. He is trying to be a dream buster, but he will not succeed.”

“I hope that Gov. Mecham will see the error of his ways,” Jackson said, adding that the nation’s governors need to exercise moral leadership on the issue.

An apparently irritated Mecham replied, I really resent you talking about moral leadership, Jesse. You want to use pressure to make everybody feel guilty if they don’t go along with you. You are the one that lacks moral leadership, Jesse, not I.”

Mecham earlier said the backers of the King holiday in Arizona were “willing to cast aside the law” for their political purpose of honoring King.