NRO's Goldberg defended Bennett, falsely claiming "his argument wasn't about race at all"
In his October 7 syndicated column, National Review Online editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg defended radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, who linked African-Americans, abortion, and crime (as exposed by Media Matters for America) and later falsely claimed that his comments were merely a reference to an argument put forth by Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005). Goldberg claimed that "[Bennett's] argument wasn't about race at all. His point was to discourage even pro-lifers from demeaning the cause by making abortion into an acceptable governmental tool for social policy." But Bennett specifically singled out blacks, linking them to crime and introducing race into an on-air discussion that had previously centered on the relationship of abortion to crime and the solvency of Social Security.
Bennett made his controversial remarks in response to a caller who asserted that "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency. Bennett's rejoinder was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in Freakonomics. But Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner argued that the children not born due to abortion would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore would have been more likely to commit crimes; their argument did not address the subject of race. In fact, in a 1999 Slate.com online discussion that followed the release of a preliminary version of a 2001 paper by Levitt and John J. Donohue III on which the argument in Freakonomics is based, Levitt specifically noted that "[n]one of our analysis [of abortion and crime] is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable." In a September 30 response to Bennett's remarks, Levitt reiterated: "Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics."