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. GOP = Greed Over People

    Youtube shows he most definitely said black and did he not hear all the white folks applauding his " black welfare" statement either?

    Seems frothy fraud Santorum, is both "deaf and dumb", not what we need in a President.

    January 5, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. ronnie

    Dont even bother to go to NH baby. It's over!!!!!

    January 5, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Todd C

    He's mostly upset because he realized this is exactly Ron Paul's position on the issue, and he wants to differentiate himself somehow.

    January 5, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. JPO

    I think it's what's known as a "Freudian slip" or parapraxis. A repressed thought accidentally replaces what you intended to say.

    January 5, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Zack

    When Ron Paul takes leads, he gets the shaft, when Santorum takes the lead, this story gets hidden at the bottom. Where are all the 'politically necessary' smear articles about Santorum?

    January 5, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. Charles

    Now we know that he lies.

    January 5, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. Republican who supports President Obama

    He knew exactly what he was saying. I do not see any of these candidates in urban or poor neighborhoods campaigning or meeting people.

    The GOP is out of touch with the 'everyday' citizen and simple do not know how to interact with or talk about the different cultures within this country. Getting past the photo ops and you will see they only care about a particular segment of the US populace.

    January 5, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. jason1

    Oh here come the pc police, aka the liberal media. Fact is, blacks do use much higher RATES of welfare and food stamps than whites, commit far more crime per their population percentage than whites, etc. So what if he meant to say it or not. It's true. Don't like it, I don't care.

    January 5, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Stan

    The word, "African-American" has seven syllables and "black" has one. Shouldn't be hard to tell which one he said. Denying something that is obvious is a big red flag here folks – especially for somebody that's running for president.

    January 5, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Woman In California

    @ Honest

    Thank you for that post. EVERYTHING you said is 100% true and totally the way I feel.
    Have a great day.

    January 5, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. D

    There's a black reporter standing right behind Santorum. What word does it look like he heard?

    January 5, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Bee

    Anyone who thinks that creationism should be"taught" in the public schools is not fit to be the President of the United States.

    January 5, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  13. Como

    I see lots of people saying Santorum is a racist. So what do we call people with ethnic roots in Africa. Black or African American? It seems when a liberal wants to paint a moderate to conservative as racist if the subject says "Black" it is racist and the complainer says use "African American". Then it is vice versa. The same for Hispanic, when wanting to be insulted they are not Hispanic but Mexican or Argentinian etc. Well, I am not Irish, I am a Scot and am tired of being called an Irishman. Get my point. Here is what Santorum probably meant. And it is not an easy statistic to state correctly. Statistically there are as many whites as blacks (this is what the federal govt used) on welfare. White 38.8%, Black 39.8, Hispanic 15.7, Asian 2.4, other 3.3. However whites make up 50% of the population, Blacks 15% and Hispanics about 15%. So Santorum is correct in that "blacks" are the preponderonce of welfare recipients statistically. If that is racist then many of you need counselling.

    January 5, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. jason1

    2% of Iowans are black, yet they use 9% of the food stamps there. Meaning, they use them at a rate over 4.5 x their going rate for their population size. Big surprise. That trend holds up for black everywhere. Welfare and food stamp use among blacks is at epidemic proportions, more than any race by far. They are also only 12% of the population yet commit 65% of all violent crime. So what if someone actually noticed and said it.

    January 5, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. SeattleBlue

    I'm so anti Santorum and as much as I would like to say he said black, he simple didn't. It's just not there.

    January 5, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. Glenn Doty

    What kind of childish "defense" is that?

    Why not just defend the statement by saying "I was using an example"? For the love of God, this makes him seem like a coward AND an idiot... Just being an idiot is bad enough.

    Just what were the two mumbled words supposed to be: "I don't want to make bald track people's lives better..."?? Battle attack? Blue plaque?
    What was the sentence supposed to be?

    January 5, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. cathstar

    He said BLACK and is now tryint to backtrack. I don't say BLACK when I get tongue tied. If he didn't say BLACK, he should tell us what word he did say. To what "people" was he referring?

    January 5, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. loisaida

    My politics couldn't be more different from Santorum's. I find his beliefs offensive. But, to be fair, it didn't sound like he said "black" to me. I think he was starting to say "lives", stopped, and said "people's lives." But I do think this brings up an important point ... i.e. the impression many white people have that it is black's who receive most welfare. The truth is most welfare recipients are white. Let's make that the topic of discussion.

    January 5, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Dustin

    This is silly. He didn't say black. I don't like the man or his politics, but this is a non-issue. It's pretty clearly a tongue-tied moment. Now, he like most repubs do think that people only use security nets because their lazy, and not because of the actual reason that history has taught us in that the poor will be run into the ground unless they get help. That's a reason to campaign against him, but not for this.

    January 5, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Your turn in the barrel, Santorum. Every word you've ever said, every email you've ever written .............

    January 5, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. Lenny Pincus

    I don't know what I said but I know it wasn't "black". Now let me explain how I will encourage states to criminalize contraception.

    January 5, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. MazeAndBlue

    All republicans think the same. Fact= White people make up the majority on welfare/food stamps/section 8 etc..than any other race. Fact= White people stay on the welfare roles and other subsidies longer than any other race. So what are they talking about!!!!!!

    January 5, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. hatetodisagree

    Listen, I can't stand this guy – he and his crazy values scare me. If he gets elected, I am moving to Australia. But I actually think he did stumble. He started to say "make lives" then stopped and fumbled/jumbled the two words "people and lives" and finally got to "people's lives" . Watch the reaction of the African American cameraman behind him – not a blink. Don't you think he would have at least looked a little shocked if RS had actually said what he is accused of saying?

    January 5, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Vince

    I'm sure he didn't mean to say black. He probably meant to say another word Tea Baggers use to describe black people.

    January 5, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Deni

    To those of you who don't consider his Freudian slip showing significant ~ this is not a matter of Santorum being politically correct, it's a matter of him singling out a race of people and how he has labeled them/what he believes. It is an indicator of one of his many character flaws.

    January 5, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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