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Hannity & Colmes Does Damage Control For Bill Bennett

Reported by Ellen - October 1, 2005

Last night on Hannity & Colmes, the top story was once again Bill Bennett's controversial comment, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." It's an awful, shocking statement that has put Bennett in the hotseat for several days. But nobody had any criticism of him on Hannity & Colmes Friday night. All the blame belonged to Democrats and blacks.

Thursday night (9/29/05), Bennett was a guest on the show and defended his comment. However, he seemed to misunderstand why he had provoked outrage. Completely overlooking his offensive correlation between blacks and crime, Bennett vehemently insisted that his remarks could not be racist because he is opposed to abortion.

That night, Alan Colmes made it clear that he found more to the controversy than the issue of blacks having abortions. But last night, he and Democratic strategist Michael Brown obviously wanted to avoid criticising Bennett. Colmes said, "Rather than make this about Bill Bennett, who's certainly taken a lot of hits on this over the last 24 to 48 hours, I think it gives us the opportunity to have a larger conversation about the issue of crime and race." Brown said that the issue is "how do we fix what's wrong?"

Well, it's a noble thought but when a major public figure like Bennett, especially one who holds himself up as a paragon of virtue, says something that offensive to so many people and doesn't seem to even understand why, I can't think of a single good reason he should escape scrutiny.

While Colmes and Brown held their fire, substitute co-host Rich Lowry and conservative African-American Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson mounted a full-scale attack. Peterson started out by saying, "This is an attempt by the liberals to prevent white conservative Republicans from speaking the truth about black America... This is an attempt to shut down white Republican conservatives." He went on to assail the "moral character" of the blacks in New Orleans. Gratuitously he added, "In three days they turned the Dome into a ghetto."

Lowry also seemed to miss the race/crime implications in Bennett's comment when he said that Bennett's follow-up comment, that abortion for blacks would be reprehensible, proved he didn't support the idea - as if that was the end of the story.

Lowry then proved that he had no interest in either the high road or the larger issue. Channelling Hannity, Lowry demanded that Brown answer the ridiculous question, "Do you personally think it is wrong to abort black babies? ...Does it outrage you that 10 million black babies have been aborted in the last, say, 30 years? ...Does it bother you that so many black babies have been aborted?"

Brown asked why this was made a race issue.

Lowry, laughing derisively said, "Because, Michael, it's been made a race issue because these people are smearing Bill Bennett as a racist. Come on!"

Lowry said, "The irony in this controversy is Bill Bennett wants to do more to stop abortions in the black community and the rest of America than almost anyone in the Democratic party. And he's the one getting smeared for supposedly being in favor of aborting black babies."

Actually, Rich, the irony is that you can't even get it right why people find Bennett's remarks offensive. Here's a clue from an editorial in the Austin American-Statesman: "What is morally reprehensible is that Bennett's racist statements fuel the specious belief that blacks are genetically wired to be criminals. Bennett should know that race is not a predictor of criminal behavior. Researchers long have pointed to socioeconomic factors as a primary cause for criminal behavior. But Bennett didn't say that aborting all poor children would reduce the crime rate, but rather aborting all black children — rich, poor or middle-income — is the way to lower the crime rate."

Peterson said "Michael and the liberals are not bothered about black babies being aborted every day... They don't care about that. They don't care about rebuilding the family. They want to cry racism because they want to manipulate and criticize white Republican conservatives...They made it a race issue when they falsely accused my friend, Bill Bennett, of being a racist." He went on to attack FOX News black villains of the month, Charles Rangel and Louis Farrakhan (whom both Colmes and Brown quickly repudiated).

Finally, Michael Brown addressed the aggression coming his way. He said Peterson's defense of Bill Bennett "is to talk about what other people have said. You don't even want to deal with how to defend what he said, whether it was taken out of context or not, it came out of his mouth." Then he switched focus: "The issue is how do we fix what's broken."

Comment: While I agree with Brown in the abstract, Hannity & Colmes hardly seems the place for wonkishness. Without even pausing to consider Brown's question, Peterson said Bennett is trying to save the unborn and "not trying to destroy them like the Democrats."

Lowry said, "If you guys really don't want conversations to be racialized in this country, you should tell it to the leadership of the Democratic Party and the civil rights establishment."

Brown finally seemed to understand that nobody was going to talk about solutions He responded, "Oh, please, Rich... a ghetto in the super dome. He should be ashamed of himself."

But it was too late. The segment was over and the music had already started.

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