"Bennett's statements were crude. But the left doesn't help itself when it twists meaning to suit its own ends." Readers have their say about Cecelie Berry's response to William Bennett.

Published October 4, 2005 7:59PM (EDT)

[Read "Are Babies Not Equally Innocent?" by Cecelie S. Berry.]

I do not like Bill Bennett. He has perfected the smug, self-righteous, arrogant style that is now the standard persona of the Republican right. But I like even less the left's inclination to play the race card even when it is unwarranted. Cecelie Berry's article conveniently misrepresents Bennett's comments (I hate that I am defending him), in particular by omitting the comments' context. And, of course, context is everything. His statement that aborting black babies would be morally reprehensible was not "backpedaling," as Berry called it, but a core aspect of his comments.

And Bennett did not imply that criminal tendencies exist in "every" black baby, as Berry histrionically asserts. He does imply that, on average, crime is disproportionately committed by African-Americans. This fact is not arguable, and it needs to be part of an intelligent discussion by the left. Bennett's statements were crude. What else would we expect from him? But the left doesn't help itself when it twists meaning to suit its own ends and when it does not permit truth telling if the truth offends its sensibilities.

-- Al Scovern

Apparently, when Bennett was secretary of education, he implemented an abstinence education program that was targeted only to African-American girls. These programs were instituted throughout the United States. Even though the problem of teen pregnancy crosses racial lines, most people saw his program as positive for African-American girls and their education and did not question his motivations. So now we know. I am 35 weeks pregnant and about to give birth to a little black baby boy. When I heard that my baby was going to be a boy, I felt fear for him immediately. Even before he leaves the womb he's branded as a criminal in training. Although I'm grateful for opportunities I've been given in this country, it's the continued deep-seated racism from our "leaders" that makes me question whether my son would be better off being raised in another country entirely.

-- Yvonne Taylor

Oh. Come. On. I'm no apologist for Bill Bennett. But Cecelie Berry isn't doing us any good either. I'm the moderate-liberal , 30-year-old daughter of two extremely conservative parents , and I have to say, they knew what he said was stupid and racist. But the piling on (by progressives, liberals, whatever) that we feel compelled to do only forces moderate conservatives into the position of defending and equivocating what he did. Can't we just, for once, shut up about ourselves and how offended we are, and let them cast out their own demons?

-- Elizabeth Land

I'm no fan of Bennett's, but I think that taking this comment as an attack on black Americans is silly. He was using an extreme example to illustrate his point. He was trying to make a point about the evils of abortion (not an opinion I share), not advocating it, and certainly not advocating the abortion of an entire race. My goodness, his whole point was the exact opposite of the "genocidal notions" Berry mentions.

-- Eric Pickup

The point I think we are missing is that it's not clear whether the "morally reprehensible" part for Bill Bennett is the abortion itself or the holding every black person responsible for all crime. He prefaced his statement with: "But, I do know that it's true." He believed his statement that getting rid of black babies would make the world safer. Perhaps he had a better way in mind to get rid of "them" than the morally reprehensible route of abortion?

-- Lori Boyer

Once again a virtue-crat has stepped in it, and once again he has proceeded to defend himself by mischaracterizing his critics' arguments. Obviously he wasn't advocating the abortion of black babies. He's against abortion, period, so he'd hardly be in favor of even hypothetical abortions. Just as obviously, when reaching for a counterexample involving demographics and crime rates, he came up with "black," as opposed to, say, "poor." He still doesn't understand what he did wrong, and no wonder. All the best people -- all his virtuous, high-placed colleagues -- talk this way as a matter of course. (Not in public, though, Bill.)

-- Jincy Kidd

Bennett was simply doing what fellow radio rabble-rouser Rush Limbaugh does best: using inflammatory language to grab headlines and expose the "hypocrisy" of the "liberal media" on social issues. Bennett had to be aware that his comments would be not only dissected but spliced and edited for maximum anger-inducing effect by the mainstream media, which they in fact were. The latter part of his remarks, in which he denounces the abortion-crime link as repugnant and preposterous, received far less attention in the print and televised news covering the story. He conveniently made his remarks at the end of the weekly news cycle so that the weekend pundits would have another topic for nondebate and the rehashing of tired arguments about liberal moral laxity and conservative public policy or, in our current political climate, conservative moral laxity vs. liberal public policy. Demagogues like Bennett often claim they are simply trying to fight the taboo of public discussions of race in this country, but what they are actually doing is setting a trap that the press seems frequently all too willing to fall into.

-- Kathie Foley

By Salon Staff

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