Diamonds Declared ‘Politically Incorrect’

The diamond industry got another pre-Christmas slamming on network television—this time on ABC’s Politically Incorrect.

Host Bill Maher lambasted the diamond industry as “a dirty business” and told viewers not to buy diamonds, since it’s impossible to distinguish a “clean” stone from a “conflict” stone.

He quoted Dennis Bright of the Council for Peace and Reconciliation as saying, “The fellow who gives a diamond ring to a lover should know that probably because of that diamond a girl of 10 has been raped, a boy of 2 has lost a limb.” Bright’s comments originally aired during a CBS news report by correspondent Bob Simon.

Maher added, “What I think is amazing is that women who purport to be the most sympathetic and, of course, caring about children, when it comes to diamonds, they don’t care.”

Many of Maher’s comments were inaccurate. For example, he said, “Senator Judd Gregg, a conservative Republican from New Hampshire, said buying diamonds is similar to purchasing goods from Nazi Germany.” In fact, Gregg equated buying conflict diamonds with purchasing goods from the Nazis.

He also noted that “Global Witness, World Vision, Physicians for Humanity [sic], Amnesty International … all tried to organize a [diamond] boycott.” Actually, those groups had stated that they did not want a boycott.

On the subject of conflict diamond legislation in Washington, Maher said, “The World Diamond Council hired the best lobbyists in Washington, and, of course, when you do that, what happens? It [the bill] got quashed.” But shortly after the broadcast aired, a bill on conflict diamonds passed the House, with the World Diamond Council’s support.

Two of the show’s guest stars joined in the bashing. Author Clive Cussler said, “Realistically, diamonds should be priced at $5 a carat. There’s that much of a glut. Russia has warehouses just full of ’em. De Beers has ’em stashed all over. … I always tell somebody, a fellow who’s gonna buy his fiancée a ring, I say, “Get an emerald or a ruby. They’re 50 times more rare than a diamond.” Actor Gil Bellows of The Agency noted: “Somebody [is] bestowing a gift upon somebody else with the ideal of love and commitment, and that gift is basically being given from the blood and sweat of somebody else.”

The other two panelists, however, stood up for diamonds. Commentator Jane Chastain noted that only 15% of the diamonds in the world are involved in conflicts. (Industry estimates are 4%.) “The other 85% are actually mined and traded legitimately … [That’s] putting food on the tables of people that would be without if we didn’t buy the diamonds.” To which Maher retorted: “Food on the table of jewelers?”

And actress Mo’Nique of The Parkers said that “almost everything we have and we acquire comes from somebody’s blood and sweat.” She added: “I’m not going to stop buying diamonds. I like [them.] … Diamonds are truly a girl’s best friend, and when you get married … are you going to give your wife a copper ring?”