Defending Bennett's comments, Rev. Peterson cited alleged violence at Superdome to claim that most blacks "lack moral character"

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

On the September 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson argued that the controversy surrounding remarks made by nationally syndicated radio host Bill Bennett, the former secretary of education under President Reagan, linking crime rates to abortions by blacks was simply "an attempt by the liberals to prevent white, conservative Republicans from speaking the truth about black America." Peterson, who is the founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), then suggested that "the root cause of crime is a lack of moral character." He explained that "crime and out-of-wedlock birth, black folks having babies without being married, and stuff like that is out of control." According to Peterson, "Not all ... but most of them lack moral character. Look what they did to the [Louisiana Super]dome. In three days, they turned the Dome into a ghetto."

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times have noted, the reports of widespread violence at the Superdome in the days following Hurricane Katrina -- which apparently served as the basis for Peterson's accusation that evacuees had "turned the Dome into a ghetto" -- have been called into question.

From the September 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

PETERSON: You know, [co-host] Alan [Colmes], first I want to say I know Bill Bennett. He is not a racist, he is a good man. As a matter of fact, we use his book, The Book of Virtues, with our BOND After School Character Building Program. This attempt is by -- this is an attempt by the liberals to prevent white, conservative Republicans from speaking the truth about black America.

COLMES: Wait a second, you say "liberals, but The White House has said today --

[crosstalk]

PETERSON: Whether it's on race issues or moral issues, this is an attempt to shut down white, Republican conservatives.

COLMES: Reverend, the White House today condemned the remarks. Again, I'm looking to have a broader conversation here, not to make it about Bill Bennett. What is the root cause of crime? Is it --

PETERSON: Well, I want to go back to your point --

COLMES: Wait, I want you to answer to my question. Is the root cause of crime race or is it poverty?

PETERSON: The root cause of crime is a lack of moral character. You know, we saw a good example of that in the New Orleans situation in the inner cities. I've done a lot of work in the inner cities, and I have to tell you that crime and out-of-wedlock birth, black folks having babies without being married, and stuff like that is out of control. And it's not because they lack material things but because not all, not all, not all --

RICH LOWRY (guest co-host and National Review editor): Right.

PETERSON: -- but most of them lack moral character. Look what they did to the Dome. In three days they turned the Dome into a ghetto.

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