Santorum on controversial remark: I was 'tongue-tied'
January 4th, 2012
10:27 PM ET
3 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. krissmith777

    Yeah, yeah, Rick, that's what they all say.

    January 4, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  2. jay in denver

    “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.

    Except for tthe obvious fact that he said, "black,"

    January 4, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  3. politics as usual

    It sure sounded like "black" to me, and if it wasn't, then what did he MEAN to say?

    January 4, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    Tongue tied? What a maroon. I suppose he was tongue tied when he started his bomb Iran talk. "Yeah! Thats what Jebus wants us to do. So we can start World War lll and kill millions. But save those zygotes, cause I just luv em. And then we can turn this country into a secular nation just like Iran. That is the TICKET! Restart the Inquisition (sp), and maybe a holy civil war to get rid of all them agnostics, and anybody else who don't agree with me." Total waste of food.

    January 4, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  5. Nancy

    Why is being politically correct so important nowadays? He called it like he saw it.

    January 4, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  6. Tisha

    I watched it and it's pretty clear to me that he said 'black' people

    January 4, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  7. stars

    I heard it, he said black dude you r a coward and a lair and a phony. and u no christan wake up ppl this guy is more dangerous than satan himself. something is wrong when a man bring home a child that has pasted on scary!

    January 4, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. Debbie

    I listened three times and I'm pretty confident he says "black people." I would also say that the talk was a stump type speech in a cozy setting and those are practiced over and over and over. Santorum maybe did not intend to say black people but that is what came out. The question is what it a Freudian slip?

    January 4, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  9. anagram_kid

    When one finds oneself in a hole, stop digging.

    January 4, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. GonzoinHouston

    The only way a politician tells the truth in public is by accident. Santorum just revealed a bit of his true self. Ooops!

    January 4, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  11. Yesorno

    He stumble. He stumble the word 'black'.

    January 4, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  12. wryng

    "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,” Started to say what word? Black?A word...give me a break.

    January 4, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. DENNA

    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.”
    -------------------------------------------------
    OMG! Are you stuck on stupid? Why don't you give "them" good paying jobs? In fact, why don't you give all jobless Americans a chance to get good paying job. Black people are not the only ones suffering. Slip of the tongue indeed.

    January 4, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  14. Tyler Durden

    That reminds me of a time when I stumbled over my thoughts and speech and accidently said what I thought about my girlfriend instead of what I thought she wanted me to say. She broke up with me.

    "I can't... I can't. Opps."

    January 4, 2012 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  15. Phil

    Folks, I am all for skewering a politician for making racist or bigoted remarks. I am a Democrat and could care less who loses to Obama. But I have listened to and watched this clip several times, and Santorum had the same slip of the lip that happens to all of us. He absolutely doesn't say "black people's lives". He stumbled and started what sounds like "lives", then caught himself, backed up and corrected himself. For any of us looking for something to slam Santorum for, there are crystal-clear policy positions galore that make this guy unelectable. Give him a break and wait until the next time he really does say something stupid. It won't take long.

    January 4, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  16. vc

    Since he is claiming to be a Christian, he needs to come clean on what he acutally said. OWN IT AND FIX IT!! Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Whatever is in your heart, good or bad, it will be revealed. I FEEL LIKE IT WAS!!

    January 4, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  17. Kevin Loker

    It still sounds like "blank people's lives" to me.

    January 4, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  18. DP

    He clearly is not saying "Black" people, it isn't even close. It sounds like he says "A lot" instead. And I am a Ron Paul supporter but this is just ridiculous.

    January 4, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  19. Chris J

    Maybe for mentioning blacks specifically ok... But people are black. People are white... Get over it. No one calls me a caucasian american.

    January 4, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  20. Woman In California

    This is typical behavior for the republican party at least THEY think so. Since racial slurs are being bought to the surface why is it no one has mentioned Romney referring to blacks as "dogs". You figure.

    January 4, 2012 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  21. Jason

    I heard black. That room full of people did too because they sure applauded for it.

    January 4, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  22. Josh

    He definitely didn't say black. It sounds like he was going to say Lives and stumbled into People's. Not sure where the "black" came from as there is not "B" sound in his speech. (Obama supporter)

    January 4, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. marty rogers

    that's funny. he did say black people.....oops

    January 4, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  24. J.V.Hodgson

    Coming up with some convoluted excuse was not the way to go.
    He should say it was not my intention to say black and if the use of that word is what people think I said and meant I apologise.
    Please review my record of work in the African American communities I served in.
    Even if only 50 % of viewers of the speech thought he uttered black, stumbling or tongue tied don't work as an excuse.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    January 4, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  25. Ken

    Was it insensitivity or, more simply, a question of pure stupidity??? And this man wants to be POTUS????

    January 4, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
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