Shocking details of the FBI’s smear campaign against Martin Luther King Jr have been found on secret tapes, it is claimed.
Its is alleged the agency accused the celebrated civil-rights campaigner of having up to 40 affairs.
As the US Baptist minister rose to prominence in the 1950s and 60s, he was subjected to years of wiretaps and eavesdropping by infamous intelligence chief J Edgar Hoover, who believed he had Communist Party ties.
Details of the covert tapes have been revealed by biographer David Garrow, who says he has unearthed files not scheduled for release until 2027.
The author claims Dr King, who was only 39 when he was killed on April 4, 1968, spent 12 years – almost a third of his life – under the FBI’s watch.
The covert surveillance was designed to undermine the civil-rights activist, as Hoover feared his popular movement could destabilise the country.
Agents honed in on King’s philandering and claims he fathered a child – claims which Garrow argues could lead to “painful historical reckoning”.
Although the tapes, recorded by bugs in two lamps in hotel rooms booked by King in January, 1964, are still kept in a vault at the US National Archives, the author and historian has unearthed the FBI summaries of the various incidents.
He claims they show King had extramarital affairs with up to 45 women and, shockingly, even “looked on and laughed” as pastor friend Logan Kearse raped a parishioner.
The recording from the Willard Hotel, near the White House, in Washington DC, shows how King was accompanied by Kearse, who died in 1991, along with several female parishioners of his church.
In his hotel room, the files claim, they then “discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural and unnatural sex acts”.
The FBI document says, “when one of the women protested that she did not approve, the Baptist minister immediately and forcefully raped her” as King watched.
He is alleged to have “looked on, laughed and offered advice” during the attack.
FBI agents were in the room next door, but did not intervene.
The following day, King and a dozen others allegedly participated in a “sex orgy” engaging in “acts of degeneracy and depravity”.
When one woman showed resistance, King was allegedly heard saying that performing the act “would help your soul”.
Senior FBI officials allegedly later sent a copy of the incriminating tape to King and called him an “evil abnormal beast” and told him his sexual exploits would be “on record for all time”.
The letter also suggested he should commit suicide before his wrongs were revealed to the world.
Mr Garrow said he had no idea of the scale or the ugliness of it, nor of King’s apparent indifference to rape until he saw the files.
He said: “It poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”
Historian and leading American civil rights activist, Edith Lee Payne, told the Mirror she was disgusted at the claims.
The 67-year-old, of Detroit, Michigan, who became the iconic poster girl of the I Have A Dream speech in Washington, said: “This false information on Dr King is beyond disturbing.
“It’s blatantly obvious that this person is using the sterling reputation of one of the most admired and respected men for personal attention and for what remains to be seen.
“Certainly an attack on Dr King would get him attention. Fortunately, there are still people around who were close to Dr King and know him and his character.
“The life of a dedicated, committed, selfless man, husband, father, pastor, and civil rights leader as Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. demanded that his time and efforts meet each challenge and responsibility.
“His respect as a civil rights leader reached millions of people from every wall of life, race, creed, colour, gender, nationality and religion in this country and around the world.
“Personally, I am immensely honoured and proud to have marched with him twice. The second time was the August 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC that rocked the nation and the world and we still celebrate Dr King more than five decades later and by generations who weren’t even born.
“He will continue to be celebrated for generations to come. He was that kind of man.
“If the FBI really had damaging evidence on Dr King they would have exposed it.
“From first-hand accounts to me from members of his inner circle, he was never alone even he travelled.
“His time was consumed in strategies, meetings and organizing in preparation for acts of civil disobedience or whatever he was called upon to do, and, of course, rest.
“He’s authored scores of books and articles, delivered speeches public and private but his best time was spent with his family, a loving wife, who accompanied him often, and with his four children whom he adored.
“Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr. lived a life of selfless service to God first and to humanity. There was no room or interest for anything else.
“To suggest that he would knowingly or willingly engage in anything illicit or criminal would discredit everything he sacrificed for, stood for and ultimately died for.”
Yesterday, the claims divided opinion among posters on social media.
Rhonda Veit said: “Do we take down the MLK memorial and rename all the streets named after MLK now?”
One wrote: “Goes to show the FBI has been illegally spying on Americans all the way back to Martin Luther King.”
Last year, former FBI director James Comey unapologetically and openly criticised Hoover for spying on Dr King.
He said the Bureau unlawfully investigated his private life and used intimidation to decrease his growing support.