Mugging Mr. Murray: Murray speaks

American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray must rank among our most prominent living social scientists. At a May 17 hearing of the Joint Economic Committee convened by Senator and JEC vice chairman Mike Lee, 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.

I wrote about the hearing and posted the video in “Mugging Mr. Murray.” Please let me review what happened next before updating what I wrote with Murray’s first public comment on it last night in Minneapolis.

What happened next is a disgrace. Committee Democrats performed a concerted mugging of Murray rich in the defamation flaunted by ignorant rioters protesting Murray’s appearances at Middlebury and other college campuses.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was the first to jump Murray. She inserted her thinly veiled disparagement of Murray into the proceedings and promptly departed. Klobuchar’s Democratic colleagues on the committee then piled on and pummeled him.

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.

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

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was the first to call out Murray by name. She made 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 criticized 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.

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 did Senator Lee speak up on Murray’s behalf.

This is what I have learned since originally commenting on the JEC hearing. Committee Democrats warned Lee that if Murray testified they would attack him as they did. Lee himself neither warned Murray nor invited Murray to respond.

Last night Murray spoke on campus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis as the featured annual dinner guest of Intellectual Takeout. It was a terrific event. The video of Murray’s presentation is posted on Intellectual Takeout’s Facebook page here.

In his remarks last night Murray addressed the madness on campus with initial attention to the riot at Middlebury when he appeared there on March 2. Following Murray’s formal remarks, Intellectual Takeout President Devin Foley read Murray a few questions submitted from the audience including my question about what happened at the JEC hearing. Murray said he was glad Lee didn’t give him the opportunity to respond to the attacks on him by the Democrats because his response would have turned his mugging into more of a story than it had been (despite my best efforts, I should add).

Putting that to one side, however, Murray commented that the hearing “made me much more angry than the Middlebury thing.” After summarizing the JEC Democrats’ disparagement of him, Murray concisely responded: “The willingness of people who have not read a word you have ever written to libel you in a Senate hearing room for the Congressional Record is to me despicable.”

I wanted to return to this subject to give Murray the last word. As to Klobuchar and her Democratic colleagues, Murray’s last word is “despicable.”

UPDATE: Our friends at Intellectual Takeout have sent us the video as posted here on YouTube and below. Murray starts speaking at about 10:00.

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