NewsBusters editor falsely accused Media Matters of taking Bennett “out of context”

In an October 12 post on the Media Research Center's NewsBusters weblog, NewsBusters editor Greg Sheffield falsely asserted that “Media Matters [for America] took out of context” controversial remarks by radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett. Sheffield's post linked to a September 30 NewsBusters post (by NewsBusters contributor Dave Pierre) that did not mention Media Matters for America by name, but accused “liberals” of “taking [Bennett's] comment way out of context” and of falsely characterizing that comment as racist. But in first exposing Bennett's controversial remarks (which linked crime, abortion, and African-Americans), Media Matters documented Bennett's remarks in their full context and provided background for Bennett's reference to the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

The September 30 NewsBusters post referenced by Sheffield attacked “liberals” for failing to include a portion of Bennett's comments in which he stated that aborting all African-Americans' pregnancies would be “morally reprehensible.” The post defended Bennett on the grounds that "[i]n the full context of the entire discussion, his comment is not the least bit racist." But as Media Matters noted when previously accused of taking these comments out of context, the original Media Matters item exposing Bennett's remarks merely documented those remarks in their full context, in both transcript and audio form, and elaborated on Bennett's apparent reference to a theory laid out in Freakonomics that legalized abortion has reduced crime. As we pointed out, authors Levitt and Dubner posited that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.

Neither the October 12 nor the September 30 NewsBusters posts included a link to Media Matters' original item exposing Bennett's remarks, which included the full context of his statements.