- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Conservative radio-talk show host William Bennett has been put on the defensive recently for comments he made while on air last week. Discussing Steven Levitt’s bestselling book “Freakonomics” with a caller, the pro-life Mr. Bennett equated the book’s argument that the rise in abortions after Roe v. Wade helped reduce the crime rate to a similarly outrageous hypothetical:

“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. That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. See, these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”

Once Media Matters for America splashed his comments on its Web site last week, the CBS Evening News, which never reported on Sen. Dick Durbin’s comments last summer equating U.S. soldiers to Nazis, opened with the segment “Bennett Blunder.” The Media Research Center reported anchor Bob Schieffer wondering on air, “Just what was the man thinking?” An Associated Press headline read, “Bennett: Abortions Would Lower Crime.” ABC’s “Good Morning America” asked “Should Bennett Apologize?”

But for what? Surely not for suggesting aborting black babies. Mr. Bennett himself called the very idea “morally reprehensible.” For suggesting that being born black predisposes one toward being a criminal? That’s reading far more into Mr. Bennett’s comments than is there. For implying that blacks have a disproportionately high crime rate? Few might remember when Sen. John Kerry claimed last summer that there are more blacks in prison than in college, which is misleading anyway.

On Fox News Sunday, NPR’s Juan Williams claimed that Mr. Bennett’s remark “really speaks to a deeply racist mindset.” Unfortunately, as Opinion Journal’s James Taranto shows, to prove his point, Mr. Williams winds up proving Mr. Bennett’s. “[I]f I’m sitting here,” Mr. Williams said, “on a national talk show and I say, you know, maybe if we killed off these white people, we wouldn’t have so many mass murderers in America, you’d say, Juan, you’re out of your mind.” Mr. Williams also suggested killing Christians for “being involved in a lot of wars”; Jews, for “dominating the economy”; and older people, for causing “a great burden on our Social Security system.” As Mr. Taranto concludes, “No fewer than six times in a 10-minute segment, Williams did exactly what Bennett did… namely, offer an outrageous hypothetical to illustrate a point.”

What Mr. Bennett did wrong was forget that the mainstream media holds conservatives to a different standard.

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