Today on the 700 Club, Pat Robertson said that Margaret Sanger “was the one who set the stage for Adolf Hitler, she didn’t copy him, he copied her.” After running a story about how President Obama postponed his speech at Planned Parenthood in order to attend a memorial service in Texas for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion, Roberston said that the group founded by Sanger is “evil” and targets black people.
“What they said was, they said ‘what we’ve got to do in order to get the black people in America to have abortions, we have to have some noted black leader who will come out for Planned Parenthood and we’ll give him the Margaret Sanger award and therefore he will be our poster boy showing the black people they should have abortions,” Robertson maintained, “it was strictly genocide.”
While Sanger was tied to the eugenics movement, the claim that she intended to exterminate black people and use black leaders to hide such a plan is based on a quote taken badly out of context.
As PolitiFact reports, the eugenics movement was widely popular at the time of Sanger’s work, but there is “no evidence that Sanger advocated – privately or publicly – for anything even resembling the ‘genocide’ of blacks, or that she thought blacks are genetically inferior”:
“I have never run into any serious academic reference of Sanger or others wanting to ‘kill black babies,’” Indiana University professor Ruth Engs, a eugenics movement expert, told PolitiFact Georgia in an e-mail.
The Washington Post also “found nothing to confirm these allegations” that Sanger targeted the black community for genocide and noted that even Martin Luther King, Jr. had praised her work.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org debunked the claim when Herman Cain made the same argument as Robertson:
Cain isn’t the first to believe that birth control advocate Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) wanted to stop the birth of black babies. Just do an Internet search and see what happens. Sanger made more than her share of controversial comments. But the quote many point to as evidence that Sanger favored something akin to “genocide” of African Americans has been turned on its head.
Sanger, who was arrested several times in her efforts to bring birth control to women in the United States, set up her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In the late 1930s, she sought to bring clinics to black women in the South, in an effort that was called the “Negro Project.” Sanger wrote in 1939 letters to colleague Clarence James Gamble that she believed the project needed a black physician and black minister to gain the trust of the community:
Sanger, 1939: The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”
It goes on to characterize beliefs such as Cain’s as “extremist.” The project says: “No serious scholar and none of the dozens of black leaders who supported Sanger’s work have ever suggested that she tried to reduce the black population or set up black abortion mills, the implication in much of the extremist anti-choice material.”