Former education secretary William J. Bennett over the weekend resigned as chairman of the board of education company K12 Inc., which he co-founded in 1999, following the controversial remarks he recently made associating black Americans with crime, the company said yesterday.
"The opinions expressed by Dr. Bennett on his radio program are his and his alone," the McLean-based company said yesterday in a news release. K12 sells curriculum and distance-learning products to schools and home schoolers and serves 50,000 students in 13 states, said spokesman Bryan Flood.
In an interview, Bennett said he resigned because he does not "want to distract the company from the work it is doing," especially as K12 is making efforts to sell its material in inner-city markets.
Bennett also resigned from his job as a part-time employee of the company, responsible for making about a dozen promotional appearances a year, Flood said.
The former Cabinet official came under fire following a Sept. 28 broadcast of his call-in radio show, "Morning in America," in which he said aborting black babies would result in a lower crime rate. Though he also said that was a "morally reprehensible" idea, his remarks were condemned by civil rights groups and rebuffed by the White House.
Bennett, the author of "The Book of Virtues," said his remarks were taken out of context and misinterpreted. He called his comments "a thought experiment about public policy" that "should not have received the condemnation it has. Anyone paying attention should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me," he said in a statement posted last Friday on the "Morning in America" Web site.
Citing continuing fallout from his remarks, Bennett yesterday postponed an upcoming appearance at the University of Cincinnati.
Bennett continues to own shares in K12, which is privately held. He declined to say how large his stake was, but Flood described it as "minor equity stake." Bennett said he continues to sit on one other corporate board, but he declined to identify the company. A search of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission did not turn up directorships for Bennett at any public companies. He had previously served on the board of cyber retailer Value America Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
So far, none of the companies and organizations that sponsor the "Morning in America" Web site have withdrawn their support, said Bennett, despite what he said were efforts by "the left" to "flood the phone lines of our sponsors and scare them."
One advertiser, the Camarillo, Calif., franchise of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, had to reschedule an ocean cruise with Bennett that it was promoting on Bennett's Web site, but owner Larry Tatelman said it had nothing to do with the controversy over Bennett's radio remarks.
Bennett said he had previously offered to resign from K12 two years ago, after news reports that he was a regular at the gambling tables at several Atlantic City casinos. But the company declined his offer, he said.