Mugging Mr. Murray

American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray must rank among our most prominent living social scientists. At a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee convened by Senator and JEC vice chairman Mike Lee last week, Murray was included on a panel of social scientists testifying on the state of social capital in America — the subject of a new report released by the committee.

Testifying along with Murray on the panel were Prof. Robert Putnam (Harvard), Prof. Mario Small (Harvard) and Yuval Levin (Ethics and Public Policy Center). The occasion of their testimony was the release of a report prepared by committee staff at Lee’s request on the state of “associational life” in the United States.

What happened next? Committee Democrats performed a concerted mugging of Murray rich in the defamation flaunted by ignorant rioters protesting Murray’s appearances at Middlebury and and other college campuses. Decrying the mugging committed by JEC Democrats on Murray, Joy Pullman tells the story in the Federalist column “Congressional hit on Charles Murray indicates rioting won’t stay on campus.”

Pullman credits Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar with Minnesota nice by contrast with her Democratic colleagues on the committee. Klobuchar, however, was the first to jump Murray. She lobbed her thinly veiled disparagement of Murray into the proceedings and promptly departed. Klobuchar’s Democratic colleagues on the committee piled on and pummeled Murray. Klobuchar’s role in the production was at least as contemptible as that of her Democratic colleagues.

Klobuchar avoided smearing Murray directly. Called on first to pose questions after the witnesses’ opening statements, Klobuchar sought to build a little social capital of her own discussing the local Minnesota scene. Then Klobuchar turned to an expression of “concern” about unnamed “individuals.” Senator Klobuchar commented:

One troubling aspect of this hearing today are [sic] we are here to discuss a very important issue that impacts our society and I think there are many constructive ways we should examine the issue of social capital and it’s our responsibility to seek a wide range of expertise. I do want to express concern that I do not believe it is constructive to engage on this matter with individuals whose theories are drastically polarizing and have been discredited.

Gee, to whom might she have been referring?

Senator Klobuchar exited for a meeting at the White House, leaving her colleagues “progressively” to fill in the blanks. Senator Martin Heinrich directs questions to Prof. Small regarding the lack of evidence supporting “inherent genetic differences” leading to disparate economic outcomes. Murray is not named, but they are of course talking about him.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was the first to call out Murray by name. She makes a statement condemning Murray’s “infamous” and “offensive views about a woman’s capabilities.” She wants Murray to be gone: “[I]n my humble opinion, Congress should not give these ideas a platform in our committee, should not seek to elevate offensive claims that rely on spurious evidence.”

For the slow learners out there who may have missed the action at Middlebury, Virginia Rep. Don Beyer and Michigan Senator Gary Peters added to the indictment of Murray. Beyer criticizes Senator Lee himself for inviting Murray to appear before the committee:

[T]hose racist luminaries whose ideas and policies would ideally be rejected by all 535 members of Congress often turn to pseudoscience to justify hatred and exploitation. Cognizant of this history we would hope we would do everything in our part to make a clean break with that foul part of our legacy as opposed to dressing it up in new clothes and returning it to these marble halls…I’m dismayed that…the decision to invite Charles Murray risks turning this hearing into a sideshow. I cannot imagine, Senator [Lee], a man of your intelligence and political acumen was unaware of the meaning and consequences of inviting Charles Murray…I don’t believe that this committee’s time and resources should be used to burnish his reputation. After all, it was his unconstrained exercise of his constitutionally protected right of free speech that gave him his toxic reputation in the first place.

Beyer then called on Prof. Small to disparage The Bell Curve. Small dutifully complied.

Klobuchar’s prefatory disparagement of Murray culminated in these remarks by Senator Peters:

Before us today we have a witness who serves no purpose other than to bring divisiveness to this body. And while I’m sure all of us here believe deeply in freedom of speech and expression as well as the need for Congress to seek a wide range of opinions and expertise, a witness who has promoted racist and sexist stereotypes is a needless distraction from what we need to be doing here. To have someone who holds these views elevated alongside actual policy experts before us today is disrespectful to our other witnesses and the members of the committee and the important topics that we have to discuss.

Joy Pullman has performed a service drawing attention to the story with quotes and video here (Klobuchar appears at about 47:00 of the video, Beyer at about 1:24:00, Peters at about 1:30:00).

Recall that Murray appeared before the committee by the invitation of the JEC, presumably (according to Beyer’s remarks) the invitation of Senator Lee. At no point was Murray invited to respond to the ignorant and cowardly attacks on him. At no point does Senator Lee speak up on Murray’s behalf. The committee Democrats are beyond shame or regret, but whoever was responsible for the hearing owes Murray a profound apology.

Lest there be any doubt about Senator Klobuchar’s part in this production, let me add that I wrote her spokesman this past Thursday morning:

At the JEC hearing last week with the four witnesses including Charles Murray, who was attacked by the committee Democrats in series, Senator Klobuchar concluded: “One troubling aspect of this hearing today are [sic] we are here to discuss a very important issue that impacts our society and I think there are many constructive ways we should examine the issue of social capital and it’s our responsibility to seek a wide range of expertise. I do want to express concern that I do not believe it is constructive to engage on this matter with individuals whose theories are drastically polarizing and have been discredited.”

I take it from the questions and comments of the committee Democrats who followed her that Senator Klobuchar was referring to Murray. Will you please, confirm, deny or identify to whom she was referring before the close of business today?

I have received no response from Senator Klobuchar’s spokesman.

Responses

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