On CNN, Racist Theorist is an Expert on Intelligence

Academic Racism

On Oct. 11, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on a new study by J. Philippe Rushton, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario. Aside from his slightly bemused tone, Gupta introduced Rushton as he might any academic psychologist. The subject of the segment was a controversial piece of research conducted by Rushton purporting to show that males, on average, are smarter than women.

It was hardly the first time Rushton argued for the superiority of certain groups of people based on genes. Although you never would have known it from the treatment CNN afforded Rushton, the British expatriate is among the world's most notorious race scientists. He has been ridiculed and attacked as a racist by many leading scholars, including Stanford population biologist Mark Feldman, who described one of his main books as "laughable." University of Washington psychology professor David Barash wrote that "bad science and virulent racial prejudice drip like pus" from the same book.

Also unmentioned in Gupta's segment were Rushton's ties to the Pioneer Fund, which he has headed since 2002. Started in 1937 by textile magnate Wycliffe Draper, the Pioneeer Fund's original mandate was to pursue "race betterment" by promoting the genetic stock of those "deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution." Today, it funds extremely controversial studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the "science" of breeding superior human beings. Rushton himself has received over $1 million in Pioneer funds.

Rushton, who has been investigated for allegedly violating Canadian hate-speech laws, first courted infamy in 1989 when he published work focusing on the sexual characteristics of different races. His findings: Blacks have larger genitals, breasts and buttocks--characteristics that Rushton alleges have an inverse relationship to brain size and, thus, intelligence.

At the end of its piece, CNN did briefly quote a woman specializing in "gender studies" who complained that studies like Rushton's were "political," not scientific, in nature. But it was clear that neither she nor Gupta had any idea who Rushton was. None of the controversy surrounding Rushton -- his leadership of the Pioneer Fund, his claims of an inverse relationship between genital size and intelligence, or the many criticisms of real scientists -- got even a mention.