O'Reilly Guest Spins Crime Stats To Slam Bennett

On tonight's The O'Reilly Factor (Tuesday October 4, 2005), guest Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a group that aims to address "human rights abuses" in the criminal justice system, parsed and weaved a group of crime figures to plaster Bill Bennett and mislead the television audience.In a segment on racial attitudes in America, Jones said the following (emphasis mine):

JONES: He's (Bennett) making the case that black people commit more crimes than white people.

Bennett never made that specific claim with respect to raw numbers. Bennett's analogy implied that black people commit crimes at a higher rate than white people, and FBI crime figures appear to support this.In addition,

JONES: It shows, for instance, this will shock your viewers: White kids are four times more likely to use cocaine than black kids. They are 1.5 times likely to use crack cocaine than black kids. They're 46% more likely to use marijuana than black kids. But black kids are arrested at twice the rate at white kids, and they are 50% of the people behind bars. So what Mr. Bennett is referring to is not a -- a higher crime rate for black kids. In fact, black people committing less crime, but he's talking about in a very bad way, higher arrest rates for black people. And, so, it's painful and we know that, you know, the white kids we go to school with are doing the same things that our kids are doing, but they get away with it and we don't, and then we get considered to be a criminal (inaudible).

Do you see what Jones did? Jones took the larger issue of the black vs. white crime rate and spun it by giving statistics about ... drug use among teenagers! Jones cherry-picked this one crime (drug use, which usually occurs in private) among one age group (teenagers) and then parlayed it into the injustice that "black kids are arrested at twice the rate at white kids, and they are 50% of the people behind bars." Hold on, Mr. Jones. There are a lot of other crimes in addition to drug use that put people behind bars! What about robbery? Assault? Rape? Burglary? Murder? Mr. Jones doesn't tell us about these.It's unfortunate that Mr. Jones mishandled an issue that a lot of people would like to educate themselves about. Instead, he twisted the issue and appeared to conform it to a personal or organizational agenda. For example, the subject of higher arrest rates among blacks is an interesting one. Sadly, Mr. Jones polluted this theme to unfairly attack Bill Bennett and misdirect his audience.

Dave Pierre
Dave Pierre is a contributing writer to NewsBusters and the creator of TheMediaReport.com.