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Radio host Bill Bennett continues to modify his explanation for his controversial remarks that if "you wanted to reduce crime -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." As Media Matters for America has previously documented, Bennett initially defended his remarks by falsely claiming they were based on a theory endorsed by Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005).
Now, Bennett has offered a new defense -- liberals were outraged over his comments because they hit too close to home. On the October 5 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Focus on the Family radio program, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson suggested that the "[reason] the left has reacted so viciously to you [Bennett] is that their own abortion movement is rooted in racism." Bennett agreed and expanded on these remarks by stating that "this is the sort of thing, I think, that was probably in their minds. On a conscious or subconscious level, that had something to do with the viciousness of the attack. In using this noxious hypothetical, I hit too close to what they believe, not what I believe."
Bennett further insinuated this belief while appearing on the October 5 episode of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto. In explaining his personal reaction to the controversy his words caused, Bennett commented: "I guess the irony is, I'm the pro-life guy. I don't advocate abortion for anyone, any group. ... And my critics are pro-choice, pro-abortion, but we'll clear the air."
But those critical of Bennett's remarks, such as Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), have stated that their outrage was not focused on the issue of abortion, but, rather, on Bennett's linking of African-Americans and crime. On September 30, Conyers wrote in his weblog:
But what they [right-wing critics] miss is not the abortion "hypothetical" -- as absurd and tasteless as that is -- but Bennett's suggestion that African Americans are synonymous with crime. It is a text book case of stereotyping and racism, and cannot be explained away.
Conyers, along with 17 other members of Congress, are demanding that Salem Radio Network, which distributes Bill Bennett's Morning in America, suspend Bennett's radio program.
From the October 5 broadcast of Focus on the Family:
DOBSON: Well, we only have about a minute or so left for this segment, but the other reason, I think, the left has reacted so viciously to you is that their own abortion movement is rooted in racism.
BENNETT: That's right.
DOBSON: You know, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a profound racist, and she saw abortion in the inner city as a way of limiting the birth rate. So, the people who support Planned Parenthood and come from that philosophy are now attacking you for saying something that was completely a non sequitur.
BENNETT: Yes, and I know this history, and I have reviewed it and read it, and this is the sort of thing, I think, that was probably in their minds on a conscious or subconscious level, that had something to do with the viciousness of the attack. In using this noxious hypothetical, I hit too close to what they believe, not what I believe.
From the October 5 broadcast of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Let me ask you while I've got you here, Bill. You've got a whole lot of controversy from remarks you made --
BENNETT: Yep, yep.
CAVUTO: -- about, uh, blacks and whether they abort and all. Were you surprised about the fallout you got?
BENNETT: I guess I shouldn't be surprised being in Washington, you know. But I was surprised at the intensity of it when it was so clear that what was I was doing was introducing an abhorrent hypothetical in order to shoot it down, which I did. I said, "Here's a hypothetical," and I said, "If you did this sort of thing, abortion on a large scale, it would be morally reprehensible." I guess the irony is I'm the pro-life guy. I don't advocate abortion for anybody, any group.
CAVUTO: Which you said.
BENNETT: That's right. And my critics are pro-choice, pro-abortion, but we'll clear the air. We'll straighten this out. And, you know, tell the truth.
CAVUTO: William, always a pleasure, thank you very much.