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FOX News Uses Race-Baiting To "Prove" Bill Bennett Not A Racist. Bennett And Hannity Give The Facts An Image Make-Over

Reported by Ellen - October 14, 2005

Bill Bennett's appearance on Hannity & Colmes last night was nothing less than a blatant attempt by FOX News (or, at least, Sean Hannity) to shore up Bennett's image in the wake of the outcry over his racially-charged remarks on his radio show a few weeks ago. Rather than have a real fair and balanced discussion about what Bennett said and why some people are upset, FOX News dragged out yet another clip of Louis Farrakhan, their African-American uber-boogyman, as a straw man for Bennett to knock down. Even then, Bennett and Hannity seemed unable to present their side of the issue without seriously distorting the facts and showing signs of further racism underneath the surface.

As ABC News described the original incident on Bennett's radio show:

(On), "Bill Bennett's Morning in America," syndicated by Salem Radio Network, a caller raised the theory that Social Security is in danger of becoming insolvent because legalized abortion has reduced the number of tax-paying citizens. Bennett said economic arguments should never be employed in discussions of moral issues. If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, "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," he added.

Last night was Bennett's second attempt at image-polishing on Hannity & Colmes. Following his first appearance, I wrote that not only were Bennett's remarks offensive, he seemed to misunderstand why. Last night, he showed the same thick-headedness and lack of empathy. He also misrepresented and twisted the truth.

Before the discussion, Hannity played a long clip of Farrakhan making a lot of inflammatory statements. But the only thing he said about Bennett was absolutely true and irrefutable. Farrakhan called Bennett "a man who said that the crime rate would go down if all black babies were aborted."

Comment: The choice of Farrakhan to speak for the African-American community is just one more example of racial bias if not outright bigotry on FOX News. Does FOX News think Farrakhan's extremist views represent mainstream Blacks? Or are they purposely ignoring the views of mainstream African-Americans? For example, why not have someone like Congressman John Conyers, hardly a radical, explain why he found Bennett's remarks objectionable? In a letter to Salem Radio Network, asking that Bennett's radio program be canceled, Conyers wrote, "The fact that Mr. Bennett later acknowledged that such abortions would be "morally reprehensible," but added again that if it was done "the crime rate would go down," is equally outrageous.

Bennett assailed Farrakhan as "a divider by race." Meanwhile, Bennett seems blithely unconcerned about the divisions his own remarks have caused. He has consistently shown no remorse nor any interest in looking for anything he can do to soothe the hurt or heal the rift.

Instead, Bennett and Hannity condescendingly dragged out the old "some of my best friends are black" ploy when they started talking about a recently deceased African-American woman that Bennett had worked with along with Senator Joe Lieberman.

Next, Hannity went on a self-righteous attack against Farrakhan over something he never said. Looking shocked (as well he should have, for he was not telling the truth), Hannity accused Farrakhan of distorting Bennett's remarks. Hannity repeated Bennett's cover story that because he called it morally reprehensible, that because he was talking about a hypothesis and talking about a book he was reading (which is also false, see below), that was proof that Bennett's remarks were not racist. Like Bennett has all along, Hannity overlooked the insult of equating race and crime.

Hanitty's version of Bennett's remarks were, "Let me tell you about a book that I've been reading and a hypothesis put forward."

Bennett nodded his head and said, "Right. That's right."

Hannity: "Isolated quote, taken out of context, the meaning reprsents nothing the way it was meant but now this becomes repeated by people like (Farrakhan) for political purposes."

I repeat: I'm no fan of Farrakhan but there's simply no disputing that he accurately represented what Bennett said.

In fact, it was Bennett doing the misquoting because, as Alan Colmes pointed out, the book Bennett was supposedly referring to, Freakonomics, did not discuss the racial implications of abortion and crime. As co-author Steven D. Levitt said, "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable."

Points go to Alan Colmes for challenging Bennett at least somewhat. Bennett attacked Colmes viciously on the air during their previous get-together and, considering that Bennett is a FOX News Contributor, it must be at least somewhat tricky for Colmes to confront him. Colmes asked why Bennett brought up African-Americans in the Freakonomics discussion when the book had not.

Bennett insisted that the book in the foreward to Chapter 4 discusses race (but I'll bet it's in a different context. I'm going to try to find out later today). He also insisted that press reviews of the book were "all about race and crime." He specifically cited The New York Times and The Washington Post. I don't have access to old New York Times reviews but I did find the Time Magazine review (May 2, 2005 p73) and there was no mention of race in relation to crime. I also found a number of reviews, including one from the Washington Post, at Amazon.com. I searched the term "race" on the page and found no matches.

Bennett also told Colmes that "There's been a lot of discussion of race and crime since the situation in New Orleans... It's the kind of thing, unfortunately, that's on people's minds." Comment: Hasn't the discussion on race and New Orleans been related to disaster relief and disaster vulnerability as opposed to race and crime?

As he did during his previous appearance, Bennett seemed to think that because he said it would be "morally reprehensible" to abort black fetuses, that nobody should be offended by what he said. He told Colmes, "If my critics think morally reprehensible means approved, that's unfortunate. My critics got it exactly backwards."

Comment: By refusing to recognize the issues raised by Colmes and Rep. Conyers and obstinately focusing on the abortion part of his statement, Bennett showed that he's the one who has it exactly backwards. Also, just as offensive as Bennett's remarks is the fact that FOX News would use its news show as a public relations event for one of its employees. The Bennett scandal is a bona fide news story and the public deserves to know the full and complete picture.

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