Santorum on controversial remark: I was 'tongue-tied'
January 4th, 2012
10:27 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum on controversial remark: I was 'tongue-tied'

(CNN) - Rick Santorum said Wednesday he was “tongue-tied” this weekend and didn’t actually say a word that has sparked a firestorm among some in the African-American community.

Talking about welfare programs at an Iowa campaign stop on Sunday, the Republican presidential candidate was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

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The word “black” has become the focal point of controversy, but Santorum said Wednesday on CNN’s “John King, U.S.A.” that he didn’t recall using that particular word.

“It was probably a tongue-tied moment as opposed to something that was deliberate,” Santorum said, adding that he has watched the video several times and still can’t clearly hear the word.

The NAACP responded to his statement from Sunday, blasting the former Pennsylvania senator for “singling out” African-Americans as poor.

"Sen. Santorum's targeting of African-Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance," said the group’s president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, in a statement. "He conflates welfare recipients with African-Americans, though federal benefits are in fact determined by income level.”

Jealous said that in Iowa, for example, a strong majority of welfare recipients are white.

But one day after Santorum placed a surprising second to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, losing by only eight votes, Santorum said the pronouncement of the word was a result of unintentional stammering that simply sounded like the word “black.”

“In fact, I’m pretty confident I didn't say ‘black.’ I started to say a word and sort of mumbled it and changed my thought. I don't recall saying black. No one in that audience heard me say that,” he said.

A review of the video shows Santorum pausing before saying the word, which sounds like "black" but could also be stumbled speech. Watch and decide for yourself here.

Santorum went on to defend his record working with African-Americans.

“There's no one that's worked more - when I was a senator from Pennsylvania - in the urban communities. Black, Hispanics, as well as whites,” Santorum said. “No one worked more with African-Americans.”

He pointed to his efforts setting up programs that pair historically black colleges with federal education funding. He also said he was involved in bringing a billion dollars in private sector growth to Chester, Pennsylvania, which has a large African-American population.

“I will match my record against any Democrat or Republican in working with African-American communities,” he said.

Also see:

Paul: Gingrich a 'chickenhawk'

Iowa outcome: What it means for the president

McCain backs former foe Romney over Senate colleague Santorum

Army soldier rallying for Paul violated military ban on political activity

Romney NH ad alleges Obama broke promises


Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • NAACP • Rick Santorum • TV-John King U.S.A.
soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. Jack

    He said black. It's not crystal clear but it is audible.

    January 5, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. Republican, REALLY, REALLY hate women.

    With all the disgusting things this man has said, this is what people are worried about?

    January 5, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. Johnny Cash

    I listened to the recording over and over again. He moves too rapidly on to his next word for it to be a word he wished he wouldn't have said. There was no pause. Also, study the audience. There is no real reaction from anyone...including the African American Gentleman holding the enhanced microphone with earphones to catch everything clearly in the background. People just looking for something.

    January 5, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  4. Kahdir

    What did he mean to say???

    January 5, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. John

    It's ok to be a Democrat, Republican, or anything else. But try not to be ignorant. Just watch the video. He does NOT say "black." He stumbles over the words "people" and "lives." Gimme a break people.

    January 5, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  6. George

    Uhmmm that was definitely not a case of a mumble being misinterpreted. That was a pretty clear statement.

    January 5, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. MaryClare McCauley

    i am a democrat, obama supporter. i do not think he said black. he may have been thinking it and stopped himself just in time.

    January 5, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
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