“Bill Bennett is the poster child for racism” and “you cannot say that statement that was made by Bill Bennett is not a racist statement,” Colby King, the Washington Post’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor and columnist, declared on this weekend’s Inside Washington. King contended that “there's no way you can parse his words and get away from what he said. What he said was morally reprehensible. He has said, in effect, that blacks have a predisposition for being criminals.” No, Bennett simply based his proposition on how a higher percentage of blacks than other races commit crimes and, like King, Bennett rejected the idea of systematic abortion as “morally reprehensible.” Nonetheless, King proposed, “Now the question is: How will his party handle him? Will they come to his defense? Or will they take the right position?"
For King’s weekly columns published on Saturdays. For a bio of King, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Full transcript follows.
I caught the comments on the Friday night airing of Inside Washington on WETA-TV channel 26, Washington, DC’s PBS affiliate. The program is taped at ABC’s Washington, DC affiliate, WJLA-TV, channel 7 (actually in Arlington, Virginia), where it airs Sunday morning at 10am after This Week. It also runs Saturday nights at 7pm on NewsChannel 8, the local all-news cable channel owned by the ABC affiliate.
Host Gordon Peterson: "And here's Bill Bennett. He did the Republicans a big favor on the radio the other day, talking about if you aborted all the black babies in America, the crime rate would go down."
NPR’s Nina Totenberg: "But that would be wrong, he said."
Peterson: "Yeah, but, I mean, this is all tailor-made stuff."
Colby King: "He is one of their icons, and Bill Bennett is the poster child for racism. There's no way you can parse his words and get away from what he said. What he said was morally reprehensible. He has said, in effect, that blacks have a predisposition for being criminals. There's no way to get around that. Now the question is: How will his party handle him? Will they come to his defense? Or will they take the right position?"
Totenberg: "Or will they do nothing?"
Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist: "I would come to his defense if I knew what he had said, and if he had said blacks have an inherent predisposition to criminality, I would not defend him, but I don't, I'm not sure that's what he said."
Peterson: "What he said was, '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.' That's what he said."
Krauthammer: "I defer to John, whom I asked about this before our show, about the context of this, and perhaps you could give it as you gave it to me before."
John Harwood, political editor for the Wall Street Journal: "Well, he was responding to a suggestion that, an argument from liberals that the crime rate had gone down while the abortion rate had gone up. It was a defense of abortion rights. But, you know, the way that Bill Bennett tried to make this counter-argument was just not something anybody smart ought to say. By the same token, if you killed all the human beings, we wouldn't have any crime either. It just doesn't make any sense."
King: "But that's not a question of being smart or dumb."
Totenberg: "No, no. It's the way you think. It's the way you think."
King: "It's the way he sees blacks and the way he sees black babies and he, you know, Charles-"
Krauthammer: "I don't think Bill Bennett's a racist, though."
King: "Well, I do. I think that statement is as racist as you can possibly produce one. There's no way to get around it. Now, he can pull it back, he can try to change it, he can offer an apology, I wouldn't accept it, but you cannot say that statement that was made by Bill Bennett is not a racist statement. It starts out with a judgement about black people. That's what he said."