Democrats Attack Radio Host’s Remarks on Crime

Published: September 30, 2005, New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 – William J. Bennett, the former Republican
secretary of education, came under fire from Democratic Congressional leaders on
Thursday for comments he made on a radio program about the potential
for reducing crime by aborting all black children.

“I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you
could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this
country, and your crime rate would go down,” Mr. Bennett, now a radio
talk show host, said in a broadcast earlier this week. “That would be an
impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your
crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching,
extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”

In a radio broadcast on Thursday, Mr. Bennett called the criticism of
him “ridiculous, stupid, totally without merit” and said his critics had
taken his comments out of context.

“I was pointing out that abortion should not be opposed for economic
reasons, any more than racism or for that matter slavery or segregation
should be supported or opposed for economic reasons,” he said. “Immoral
policies are wrong because they are wrong, not because of an economic
calculation. One could just as easily have said you could abort all
children and prevent all crime, to show the absurdity of the proposition.”

Mr. Bennett, who was the secretary of education in the Reagan
administration and is the author of a best-selling book on morality, said he was
referring to a debate in the online magazine Slate that had discussed race in the
context of an argument about whether abortions contributed to lowering
the crime rate. That debate, involving Steven D. Levitt, an author of the
best-seller “Freakonomics,” apparently appeared in Slate six years ago.

In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Bennett said critics had distorted
his comments by omitting his statement that aborting all black babies would
be “morally reprehensible.”

“When that is included in the quote, it makes it perfectly clear what
my position is,” Mr. Bennett said, “They make it seem as if I am
supporting such a monstrous idea, which I don’t.”

The Democratic Congressional leaders, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, both sought to put the
remarks in the context of a Republican effort to court African-American voters.
Mr. Reid said Mr. Bennett’s comments would “feed the fires of racism,” and
Ms. Pelosi called them “shameful words.”

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