"The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal," Clegg says. "Nobody thinks it doesn't really mean what it says because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. King gave a brilliant and moving quotation, and I think it says we should not be treating people differently on the basis of skin color."
Many others agree. King's quote has become a staple of conservative belief that "judged by the color of their skin" includes things such as unique appeals to certain voter groups, reserving government contracts for Hispanic-owned businesses, seeking more non-white corporate executives, or admitting black students to college with lower test scores.
In the latest issue of the Weekly Standard magazine, the quote appears in the lead of a book review titled "The Price Was High: Affirmative Action and the Betrayal of a Colorblind Society."
Considering race as a factor in affirmative action keeps the wounds of slavery and Jim Crow "sore and festering. It encourages beneficiaries to rely on ethnicity rather than self-improvement to get ahead," wrote the author, George Leef.
Last week, the RightWingNews.com blog included "The idea that everyone should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin" in a list of "25 People, Places and Things Liberals Love to Hate."
"Conservatives feel they have embraced that quote completely. They are the embodiment of that quote but get no credit for doing it," says the author of the article, John Hawkins. "Liberals like the idea of the quote because it's the most famous thing Martin Luther King said, but they left the principles behind the quote behind a long time ago."
In October, after black actress Stacey Dash was attacked for switching her support from President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney, she said she chose Romney "not by the color of his skin but the content of his character."