William J. Bennett

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

William J. Bennett was United States Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan, co-directed Empower America -- which merged with Citizens for a Sound Economy in in 2004 to form FreedomWorks -- and co-founded the for-profit online education company K12, Inc. Bennett was also Director of National Drug Control Policy under President George Herbert Walker Bush. He is married to Elayne Bennett.

Bennett is one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, Project for the New American Century (PNAC Letter) sent to President William Jefferson Clinton.[1]

Bennett is senior advisor and founder of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, serves on the advisory council of Center for Security Policy (CSP), is the Washington Fellow for the Claremont Institute, and a distinguished fellow in cultural policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. He is also on the National Advisory Council for the Free Enterprise Foundation.

He also served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. [1]


Through the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), William Bennett helped the Tobacco Institute promote an early youth smoking prevention program called "Helping Youth Say No." The Institute drafted letters, pamphlets and press releases containing his words of praise for the program to help promote it nationally. It is now known whether Bennett was aware he was assisting the Tobacco Institute at the time, since the Institute arranged to implement the program through NASBE for cover. [2][3] [4] Such programs were later exposed as a strategy the industry devised to help forestall legislated actions against tobacco, like smoking restrictions and tax increases.[2]

Salem Radio

Since 2004, Bill Bennett has hosted the "Morning in America" radio show, which is syndicated by the Salem Radio Network."[5]

Salem's website states: [6]

Bennett's show launched April 4, 2004, on 66 radio stations. The first guests were Rush Limbaugh, Donald Rumsfeld, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, Pat Sajak, former Bill Clinton attorney and D.C. lawyer Bob Bennett, Tim Russert, Naomi Judd and author/commentator George Will.

According to his biography on the Salem radio website, "Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard. He is the ... Chairman and co-founder of the education company K12, Inc.." [7]

Moral quandries

While authoring several books on creating a more "moral" America, Bennett was a gambling fanatic.

His moral positioning became even more questionable when he discussed abortion and crimes rates on his syndicated radio program "Morning in America," on September 28, 2005: [8]

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.
BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --
CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But 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. That 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.

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