Bennett Attacks CBC and Ted Kennedy Over His ‘Aborted’ Logic
By: George E. Curry
Originally posted 10/5/2005
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, widely denounced by liberals and conservatives for his “hypothetical” argument that the crime rate would fall if all Black babies were aborted, has refused to apologize for the remark and has instead attacked the Congressional Black Caucus, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and others who took him to task for a comment even the White House called “not appropriate.”
Bennett, who served as secretary of education under Ronald Reagan and drug czar under President George H. W. Bush, created a firestorm Sept. 28 on his syndicated ratio program, “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America.”
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.
BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --
CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know.
But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.
That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
The reaction to Bennett’s remarks was swift and searing.
“William Bennett’s comments smack of such blatant racism and ill regard for all African Americans that it is incomprehensible in this day and age,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Bruce S. Gordon, president and CEO of the NAACP, said: “In 2005, there is no place for the kind of racist statement made by Bennett. While the entire nation is trying to help survivors, black and white, to recover from the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it is unconscionable for Bennett to make such ignorant and insensitive comments. I am personally offended and angry that Bennett felt he could make such a public statement with impunity. The owners of the Salem Radio Network, which airs Bennett’s program, should also apologize.”
Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, was even more critical.
“Bill Bennett’s statement was a morally degenerate statement that had genocide as its logical conclusion,” Jackson observed. “His statement comes from a philosophy that blacks are a problem. It is an ideology of white supremacy. This is classic supremacy, white Neanderthal supremacy.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California were highly critical of Bennett.
Kennedy issued a three-sentence statement: “Bill Bennett, the author of the ‘Book of Virtues’ should try reading his own book. Racist comments have no place on the public airways or in civil discourse in this country. He owes an immediate apology to his listeners and the American people.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said, “Bill Bennett’s hateful, inflammatory remarks regarding African-Americans are simply inexcusable. Are these the values of the Republican Party and its conservative allies?”
Dean’s Republican counterpart, Ken Mehlman characterized Bennett’s comments as “regrettable and inappropriate,” but added: “What’s much worse is the hypocrisy we’ve seen from the left.”
Interestingly, it is Bennett, the self-appointed virtues czar, who is being criticized for being a hypocrite. He is the author of “The Book of Virtues.” In 2003, Newsweek magazine and the Washington Monthly Online revealed that Bennett was a habitual gambler, losing as much as $8 million over one period.
After the stories broke, Bennett said, “I adhere to the law. I don’t play the ‘milk money.’ I don’t put my family at risk, and I don’t owe anyone anything.” He pledged to quit gambling.
According to the Washington Monthly, Bennett was gambling heavily while criticizing President Clinton for his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky. He wrote a book titled, “The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals.”
The combative Bennett appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes” program last Thursday. Without Senator Kennedy’s name being raised, Bennett issued a broadside: “I’ll not take instructions from Teddy Kennedy.
A young woman likely drowned because of his negligence. I’ll take no moral instruction from him. That’s much worse than legal gambling what Teddy Kennedy did. He should make no judgments at all about people. He shouldn’t be in the Senate. As far as racist and all this other stuff, I’ll put my record up with Howard Dean, with Harry Reid.”
Also unprompted, he attacked the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Let me tell you, when it comes to abortion, my wife’s program, Best Friends, has kept more young women from having abortions because they don’t get pregnant because they take her good counsel…She has done more for inner city black girls than the entire Black Caucus. So I will not bow my head to any of these people. I will not give up the ground of compassion or sympathy. But I’ll tell you, we have real issues and we have got to talk about them candidly.”
The day after his controversial remarks, Bennett accused his critics of trying to discredit him.
On his radio program, he said: “Well, there’s a campaign making hay of my remarks and taking them out of context and totally reversing my obvious meaning. The author of Freakonomics, Steve Levitt, engages the theory that abortion reduces crime. And he does that in an extended debate on Slate.com. I was referring to this debate and pointing out how tricky it is to argue for a pro-life position because of economic benefits…”
In fact, over a three-day discussion on Slate.com, Levitt argued the opposite.
“As an aside, it has been both fascinating and disturbing to me how the media have insisted on reporting this is a study about race, when race really is not an integral part of the story,” he said. “The link between abortion and unwantedness, and also between unwantedness and later criminality, have been shown most clearly in Scandinavian data. Abortion rates among African-Americans are higher, but overall, far more abortions are done by whites. None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable.”
After Bennett misrepresented his book, Levitt stated: “There is one thing I would take Bennett to task for: first saying that he doesn’t believe our abortion-crime hypothesis but then revealing that he does believe in it with his comments about black babies. You can’t have it both ways.”
Largely missing from the extensive reporting on Bennett’s remarks are discussions about Bennett’s underlying supposition that crime is somehow genetically linked to race. In Bennett’s blanket “analysis,” he made no allowances for education or economic status.
More importantly, little thought was expressed on disparities in the criminal justice system that show that even in categories in which Whites and Blacks were said to be committing crime at the same rate, Whites less likely to be punished than African-Americans.
In one study, for example, the National Criminal Justice Commission reported that although African-Americans are 12 percent of the population and 13 percent of all monthly drug users, they represent 74 percent of all those sentenced to prison for drug possession.
Social scientists say those figures underscore a problem of selective prosecution, not a genetic link between crime and race.
Albert E. Dotson, Jr., chairman of 100 Black Men of America, an organization whose members mentor thousands of youth, demanded that Salem Radio Network immediately remove Bennett’s radio program. Dotson urged people to e-mail Tom Tradup, director of programming, at email@example.com, telephone him at 972/831-1920 x 185 or fax him at 972/831-8626. Bennett’s office can be reached at the same telephone number, extension 141.
“Comments that the reduction of the crime rate in this country would be achieved by aborting every black baby are inflammatory, racist, divisive and inhumane,” said Dotson, head of 100 Black Men. “The number of white youth vs. black youth in the U.S. population creates a statistical impossibility that the majority of crimes are the result of black youth. Does the fact that youth crimes in this country are also committed by white children mean we should call for the abortion of all children? Abortion is not the answer to our nation’s crime rate.”
Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, said: “If there’s anyone who doubts that racial insensitivity still plays a role in our society and political culture, they should listen to these appalling remarks by Bill Bennett. This speaks for itself.”