WASHINGTON—Congressional Democrats blasted former Education Secretary William Bennett on Thursday for saying that aborting “every black baby in this country” would reduce the crime rate, and demanded their Republican counterparts do the same.
“This is precisely the kind of insensitive, hurtful and ignorant rhetoric that Americans have grown tired of,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday that President Bush “believes the comments were not appropriate.”
Bennett, who held prominent posts in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: “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 impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down,” he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, had called on President Bush to condemn the comments by Bennett, who was anti-drug chief in Bush’s father’s administration.
“What could possibly have possessed Secretary Bennett to say those words, especially at this time?” Pelosi asked. “What could he possibly have been thinking? This is what is so alarming about his words.”
Bennett stood by his comments Thursday night.
“I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it’s morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means,” he told CNN.
“I’m not racist, and I’ll put my record up against theirs,” referring to Pelosi and other critics. “I’ve been a champion of the real civil rights issue of our times—equal educational opportunities for kids.”
Rush called on “my friends, the responsible Republicans” to rebuke the former Cabinet official by backing a House resolution condemning his remarks as “outrageous racism of the most bigoted and ignorant kind.”
“Where is the indignation from the GOP, as one of their prominent members talk about aborting an entire race of Americans as a way of ridding this country of crime?” asked Rush, a former Black Panther. “How ridiculous! How asinine! How insane can one be?”