The woman who filed a complaint with the state board of medicine, alleging that Dr. Terry Bennett said she was so fat only a “black guy” might like her, just got the standard version of “Dr. Bennett’s diatribe on obesity,” Bennett said in an interview yesterday. He said the quote included in her complaint condensed his philosophy and took it out of context.
Bennett, who runs his own family practice in Rochester, said he delivers the same speech to all of his overweight female patients, warning them that not only their health, but their personal lives are at stake if they do not tackle their weight problem. The talk and the logic behind it, according to Bennett, go like this:
Overweight men are much more likely to die than overweight women, so an overweight woman married to an overweight man risks being an early widow. American men “don’t like obese women,” Bennett said—except one group: African-American men. But because there’s a general dearth of single middle-aged African-American men in New Hampshire, the woman is likely to end up on her own.
“Black men are the only males that don’t have a strong anti-obesity preference,” he said. “They mostly grow up in fatherless households where they are surrounded by big, loving women, and they talk about fat as sugar.”
Bennett said his logic is racial—the way medical issues like diabetes can be linked to race—and not racist. “The notion that a black person would find you attractive while a white person of the same age and same gender would not, that’s a fact,” he said. “If you are going to pick that apart and charge that statement is racist, I subject that you are the racist.”
Bennett has been charged with professional misconduct after a 2004 complaint accused him of berating a woman for being overweight and another complaint accused him of telling another woman her medical situation was so hopeless she should buy a gun and kill herself. His case is currently before the Board of Medicine, which is weighing a motion to dismiss.
In the obesity complaint, Bennett is quoted as saying: “If your husband were to die tomorrow—who would want you? . . . Well, men might want you, but not the types that you want to want you—Might even be a black guy!”