CNN's Jonathan Klein: Bennett "had explained himself very clearly and well" on controversial remarks

››› ››› ANNA DIMOND

In a New York Times article, CNN president Jonathan Klein asserted that recent hire Bill Bennett "had explained himself clearly and very well" regarding his September 2005 comment, in which Bennett said that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." However, Bennett has defended himself by falsely claiming that the topic "was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."

In a February 13 New York Times article on Jonathan Klein's "small victories" since becoming president of CNN's domestic operations 14 months ago, Klein asserted that recent CNN hire Bill Bennett -- who is also a radio host and former Reagan administration secretary of education -- "had explained himself clearly and very well" regarding his September 2005 comments, in which Bennett said that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." As Media Matters for America has noted, on the January 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room -- his first appearance since being hired by CNN -- Bennett defended himself by falsely claiming that the topic "was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."

As quoted in the Times article, Klein also described Bennett as "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."

The controversy began on September 28, 2005, when Bennett told a caller on his radio show that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett added it "would be ... a morally reprehensible thing to do," but nonetheless insisted "your crime would go down." In the initial defense of his remarks, Bennett claimed that his comments were taken out of context and that they were based on a 1999 Slate.com online discussion between Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer. Media Matters reported that, at the time, in the Slate discussion that Bennett cited, Levitt had actually said the opposite of what Bennett claimed: "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable." In addition, Levitt specifically rebutted Bennett's claim that his remarks stemmed from Levitt's work. In a September 30, 2005, response, Levitt said: "Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that [co-author Stephen J.] Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics."

During the January 26 appearance, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer asked Bennett about his controversial comment. Bennett reiterated the same defense; though speaking more generally, he said that "this [controversial scenario on race, crime, and abortion] was a hypothetical, obviously, that was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."

From the February 13 article in The New York Times:

Among the reasons some CNN staff members had puzzled over the hiring of Mr. Bennett were his incendiary comments, on his radio show last fall, that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Mr. Bennett had also characterized such a proposal as "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible." Mr. Klein said last week that Mr. Bennett, in responding to the controversy, "had explained himself very clearly and well," and was "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Class, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, CNN
Person
Bill Bennett
Stories/Interests
Bill Bennett and Abortion
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