WASHINGTON - Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders denounced conservative commentator William Bennett on Thursday for suggesting on his syndicated radio show that aborting black children would reduce the U.S. crime rate.
The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk-show host said Wednesday 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." Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." But, he said, "your crime rate would go down."
Bennett's comments were condemned by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who issued a statement demanding that Bennett apologize. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., circulated a letter, signed by 10 of his colleagues, demanding that the Salem Radio Network suspend Bennett's show.
Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, demanded that the show be canceled.
"Bennett's statement is outrageous. As a former secretary of education, he should know better," Henderson said. "His program should be pulled."
A spokeswoman for Salem Radio Network did not return three calls requesting comment. Bennett's show is heard in Houston on KNTH-1070 AM.
Bennett has written a number of books emphasizing the importance of traditional values, including the 1993 best-seller The Book of Virtues.
In 2003, he acknowledged he was a heavy gambler after news reports that he had lost millions of dollars in casinos.
Bennett's comments came during a discussion on his talk show Morning in America
White House Condemns Bennett's Remarks
Fri Sep 30, 1:31 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday criticized former Education Secretary William Bennett for remarks linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies.
"The president believes the comments were not appropriate," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
Bennett, on his radio show, "Morning in America," was answering a caller's question when he took issue with the hypothesis put forth in a recent book that one reason crime is down is that abortion is up.
"But 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," said Bennett, author of "The Book of Virtues."
He went on to call that "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."
Responding later to criticism, Bennett said his comments had been mischaracterized and that his point was that the idea of supporting abortion to reduce crime was "morally reprehensible."
Bennett was education secretary under President Reagan and director of drug control policy when Bush's father was president.