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Comments, Bennett Says, Were Distorted

October 09, 2005|From Associated Press

BAKERSFIELD — In his first public speech since his comments linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies, former Education Secretary William J. Bennett on Saturday said his remark had its meaning reversed by distorted media reports.

"I was putting forward a bad argument in order to put it down," Bennett said to sustained applause at the Bakersfield Business Conference attended by nearly 4,500. "They reported and emphasized only the abhorrent argument, not my shooting it down."

Outside, about 100 people marched in protest.

"He heard our outrage and our hurt, but he didn't say he was sorry," said Irma Carson, a Bakersfield councilwoman who, along with other local black leaders, met with Bennett before his speech. "We didn't take [his comments] out of context, because there's no context in which those comments would fit."

Dozens of black and white local residents marched around the convention center, many saying they wanted to make sure Bennett didn't feel welcome in their town.

Bennett's comments on his show, "Morning in America," came as an answer to a caller's question regarding the hypothesis of a recent book, which proposed that an increase in the abortion rate had helped lower the crime rate.

Bennett said, "I do know that 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."

Bennett, an abortion opponent, went on to say that this would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Many in the largely white audience in attendance said it was clear that Bennett, to make a point, was using an extreme example that did not represent his views.

Doretha Jones heard Bennett's speech, and said, "It's obvious that [Bennett's comment] was just a discussion of a possibility that could be espoused by human beings who don't have any feelings for babies or for blacks."

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