On Monday, MLK Day, Cuccinelli again made the comparison between his fight against the federal requirement that birth control be offered with no copay by insurance plans to King's fight for equal rights for African Americans. Cuccinelli earned some headlines earlier this month when he told an Iowa show that opponents of the mandate need to be prepared to "go to jail" in protest of the law. (He later tried to walk that back a bit.)
Cuccinelli was asked Monday about the controversy on The John Fredericks Show, a conservative talk show in Virginia. He was shocked Democrats would raise the issue, casting the battle as a struggle for rights rather than an attack on contraception.
"Whenever I talk about religious liberty, you know they turn it around. All they talk about -they don't talk about denying religious liberty. They talk about contraception. And I'm not talking about contraception. Government doesn't have a role in contraception," Cuccinelli told the radio show. "Government does have a role in protecting your civil rights especially today on MLK Day. The man who really came up with the American non-violent protest theory of civil disobedience. It's pretty egregious that they can't get any higher than contraception when we're talking about protecting people's religious liberty."
Audio, clipped by TPM (a full version of the segment is below):
It's not the first time Cuccinelli has compared the fight over the contraception mandate to King's fight for civil rights. From the Virginian-Pilot last week:
Last year, he shared the anecdote about his chat with the bishop [who he said should be prepared to go to jail] at an event for a prison ministry group and obliquely invoked Martin Luther King Jr. for emphasis, asking the crowd "Ever read a little item called Letter from Birmingham jail?"
Democrats leapt on Monday's remarks, seeing a fresh vulnerability for the conservative Cuccinelli, who is best known nationally as a tea party rockstar. The state Democratic Party sent over a blistering statement from former Delegate Ferguson Reid (D), the first African American legislator elected in Virginia in the 20th century. Reid was a leader during Virginia's civil rights struggle, and a founder of the state's Crusade For Voters in the 1950s.
"It is disappointing that Attorney General Cuccinelli would equate his opposition to birth control coverage with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the men and women who marched and fought so that all Americans could have equal rights," Reid said in the statement. "We can all disagree on policy matters from time to time, but I hope in the future that the Attorney General will resist the urge to invoke such monumental periods in our history simply to strengthen his arguments."
Cuccinelli's gubernatorial campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here's his full segment on The John Fredericks Show: