In his first appearance since being hired by CNN, Bill Bennett defended his September 2005 comment that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down” by falsely asserting that the topic “was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books.”
On his first appearance in his new capacity as a CNN contributor, Bill Bennett defended his controversial September 28, 2005, remark that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down” by asserting that the topic “was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books.” The reference to articles and books recalled false statements he made in the wake of the controversy in defense of his original comment.
Although Bennett had originally followed his hypothetical proposal with the condemnation that it “would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do,” he nonetheless insisted: "[B]ut your crime rate would go down."
During a discussion on the January 26 edition of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer asked Bennett “to explain to our viewers what you were thinking” in making the remark. Bennett replied that the controversy “was not deserved” and claimed that his hypothetical proposal “was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books.” While he did not name any specific articles or books during his appearance, Media Matters for America previously noted that he originally defended his statement by claiming that he was simply reflecting a 1999 Slate.com discussion between Stephen D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer. In the online discourse, Bennett claimed that Levitt “discusse[d], as I did, the racial implications of abortion and crime.” But Levitt did nothing of the sort, stating definitively: “None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable.”
From the January 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: I have to ask you about those controversial comments you made a few months back that some suggested were seen as racist when you said in a hypothetical discussion that if you go ahead -- you can repeat what you said --
BENNETT: I don't -- I don't think I will. [laughing]
BLITZER: -- but if you go ahead and abort all black babies there would be a reduction in crime. It caused a huge stir. And since this is the first time you're joining me here on CNN, I want you to explain to our viewers what you were thinking because I've known you for many years, I know you're not a racist, and I just want our viewers to have an understanding of what you were saying.
BENNETT: Well, this was -- first, I want to thank CNN for looking past this canard or through this canard and taking me on. But, you know, I've had a number of controversies in my life and some of them, frankly, deserved. This one was not deserved. I was dealing with a hypothetical, talking about lowering crime rate by aborting babies, babies in the black community. And that this was a hypothetical, obviously, that was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books. But I brought it up as a hypothetical to point out how noxious it was. After having brought up the hypothetical, I said, “Of course that would be a reprehensible and impossible thing to do” -- direct quote. Well, some of the media that replayed it played the hypothetical but didn't play my condemnation of that hypothetical. You know, I'm a college professor, old college professor, I use hypotheticals, and sometimes you bring up an extreme or ridiculous position in order to show how absurd it is. That was the point of it. So it was based on a distortion. But more than that, Wolf, it was -- the whole thing as it went on was based on a distortion of my life. I appreciate what you say about me. I went to Mississippi in 1967. I taught -- I taught Martin Luther King's “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I've been committed to civil rights. All I ask is that you look at my life, my record, and the work that we still do.