Salem Radio Network president responds to Conyers, who then fires back

Greg R. Anderson, president of Salem Radio Network, which distributes former Reagan secretary of education Bill Bennett's radio program, has responded to a September 30 letter in which Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) and several other members of Congress demanded the suspension of Bennett's radio show following controversial statements Bennett made on his September 28 program.

As Media Matters for America detailed, in addressing a caller's suggestion that the “lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years” would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, Bennett dismissed such “far-reaching, extensive extrapolations” by declaring 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.” He added that aborting all African-American babies “would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do,” then said again, “but the crime rate would go down.”

In an October 4 letter to Conyers, Anderson defended Bennett's remarks, stating, “We [at Salem Radio Networks] desire to encourage a robust exchange of ideas, but we would never condone racial bigotry, or ethnic discrimination. When taken out of context, we understand these comments were controversial for some and offensive to others; that was not our intent, and I am certain it was not Dr. Bennett's intent.” Anderson wrote further:

In the strongest terms [Bennett] said, "[aborting every black baby in this country] would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do..." The broader context and backdrop of [Bennett's] discussion were the positions on crime and abortion which were discussed in the New York Times bestseller, Freakonomics [by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, May 2005)]. By lifting that one sentence out of context, it would appear to suggest that Dr. Bennett is advocating a position that is the exact opposite of what he actually said."

Conyers responded to Anderson's letter on October 6, stating: “Frankly speaking, I believe your letter completely misses the point of why I and many others ... found these remarks so offensive.” Conyers noted that “Mr. Bennett gratuitously injected racial stereotyping into a conversation with a caller about social security and abortion,” adding, “to date, neither you nor Mr. Bennett have explained why such stereotyping was needed or even bothered to apologize for linking race with crime in such a discriminatory fashion.” Conyers also noted (as Media Matters did here) that "Freakonomics, the book that Bennett cited to advance his argument, does not address race at all -- that was solely Bennett's contribution."