John Stossel's continued advocacy for a right to discriminate

››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly called for the repeal of part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, saying that "private businesses ought to get to discriminate" and that free-market forces will resolve racial discrimination.

Stossel: It's time to "repeal" part of the Civil Rights Act "because private business ought to get to discriminate"

Stossel: "[I]t's time now to repeal" public accommodation section of the Civil Rights Act. During the May 20 edition of Fox News' America Live, Stossel had the following exchange with Megyn Kelly:

KELLY: Rand Paul agreed that if it's run by the government, yes, intervention is fine. He took issue with the public accommodations, with private businesses being forced to pony up under the discrimination laws.

STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it's time now to repeal that part of the law.

Stossel: "[P]rivate businesses ought to get to discriminate." After calling for the repeal of the public accommodation section, Stossel explained:

STOSSEL: Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't ever go to a place that's racist, and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.

Stossel: "[I]f a private business wants to" discriminate "it ought to be their right." During the May 20 edition of America Live, Stossel said: "You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it's a private business. And if a private business wants to say, 'We don't want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys,' it ought to be their right."

Stossel opposes government efforts to prevent cab drivers from discriminating based on race. During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated that one function of government is to "[p]rotect us against people who would deny us freedoms. So, for example, if I can't get a cab because I'm white and nobody will pick me up, I have to walk everywhere. That violates my freedoms. OK?" Stossel responded:

STOSSEL: So you want government to step in and police those cabs?

O'REILLY: I want laws and rules that protect -- look, what kind of quality of life is it for any American if they can't go to a ballgame? Or if they can't go to a restaurant as we -- as Paul was mentioning. I want the government to basically give or try to give everybody the same amount of freedom. Go.

STOSSEL: Well, I'm a libertarian. And we're pretty consistent about this. We want government to keep us safe from people who would physically hurt us. I'd go further. I would say someone who would steal from me.

O'REILLY: Criminal?

STOSSEL: Or stab me. Criminals. But we want government out of our private lives. We want the individual free to behave as he sees fit. And government is a clumsy instrument. And if you invite government in to all parts of life to make life fair, we libertarians think that's an awful idea. [The O'Reilly Factor, 5/25/10]

Stossel disagrees that public is entitled to "equal access" to an establishment "open to the public." From Stossel's appearance on the May 25 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: But in a public place, in a place that's licensed by the state -- in a state park, in anything that is open -- or should be -- to everyone, you have no right to bar someone because of their race, color, or creed. And the government must set standards there, and have.

STOSSEL: I agree for a state park. But a private business is different. This is so complicated. I have more on my website, JohnStossel.com.

O'REILLY: Not if it's open -- look, look, it's a philosophical argument. But I feel very strongly that if it's open to the public, then the public has to be -- equal access to whatever that is. If it's licensed by the state, as an institute --

STOSSEL: So women can't have a women's-only health club?

O'REILLY: It's a club.

STOSSEL: No, business, a health club. An exercise place.

O'REILLY: No. It's just, you cannot say to somebody, "You can't come in here because you're not a female." It's the same thing.

STOSSEL: I disagree.

Stossel: "Provisions which ban private companies from discriminating are a mistake." In a May 25 post to his Fox Business blog, Stossel wrote that "two other provisions -- which ban private companies from discriminating -- are a mistake. They violate individuals' freedom to decide with whom to associate, and what to do with one's own property." He further stated, "Instead of just eliminating segregation, the Civil Rights Act imposed mandatory association. Rand Paul had it right. Neither mandatory segregation, nor mandatory association, is appropriate in a free society."

Stossel: "The free-market competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn't serve most customers." From Stossel's May 20 appearance on America Live:

KELLY: How do you know that these private business owners, who owned restaurants and so on, would have said, "You know what? Yes. We will take blacks --

STOSSEL: Some wouldn't.

KELLY: -- we'll take gays, we'll take lesbians," if they hadn't been forced to do it?

STOSSEL: Because eventually they would have lost business. The free-market competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn't serve most customers.

KELLY: How do you know that, John?

STOSSEL: I don't. You can't know for sure.

Stossel: "The free market, as usual, will address the problem." In a May 21 post to his Fox Business blog, Stossel wrote: "But the clumsy fist of government cannot attack racism without stomping on the rights of individuals. The free market, as usual, will address the problem. It punishes racists. A business that doesn't hire blacks will lose customers and good employees. It will atrophy while its more inclusive competitors thrive."

Civil rights experts disagree with Stossel's views on public accommodation section of CRA

Former Freedom Rider Rep. Bob Filner: "Surely the public has a right to insist on non-racist policies." Civil rights activist and former Freedom Rider Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) responded to Stossel's call for the repeal of the public accommodation section:

A "private" business generally operates on a public thoroughfare, is protected by public police and fire departments, is served by public transportation, is staffed by people educated in public schools, is protected against fraud by the public justice system, may serve food or sell products protected by public inspection agencies, etc, etc, etc. Surely the public has a right to insist on non-racist policies!

As a Freedom Rider in 1961, I rode on an interstate, publicly franchised Greyhound bus, and, as a member of an integrated group, was denied access to restrooms, lunch counters, and waiting rooms. The Supreme Court rightly ruled this was unconstitutional. Do Rand Paul and John Stossel want to take us back to a racist past from which so many people gave their lives to liberate us?

Andrew Grant-Thomas: Stossel's comments are a "silly statement." Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Ohio State's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, characterized Stossel's comments that the free market would have resolved racial discrimination as "a silly statement," adding, "Market forces hadn't exactly made anti-black discrimination disappear during the several centuries before the Civil Rights Act." He went on to say, "There are plenty of private organizations that currently -- and legally -- discriminate on the basis of race, or other grounds, in their membership. That hasn't caused them to go under," he said. "Indeed ... in some key arenas -- like housing and schools, some people pay more for segregated settings."

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