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. df1chicago

    aaaaah, ricky boy... don't you know the first rule in making friends and influencing people is not to offend an entire swath of the population which you wish you could be the fearless leader for????

    January 5, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. Mrs. Davis

    Exhibit A of why black people vote Democratic. Repubs want to blame everything bad about the economy on us. Reminds one historically of another group of people who wanted to blame bad times on the "other' people.

    January 5, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. What's My Line?

    True, the word is politically incorrect. What's more important, is his integrity, or lack of it. He played it several times and can't determine whether he said it or not? You said it, admit and move on. It's beyond me how politicians continue to fabricate and downright lie with a straight face..... Rather than run for politics, they should attempt to resurrect "What's My Line" for they all would be finalists.

    January 5, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. jerry

    His black remark is as clear as a bell ringing in my ear. Doesn't matter to me because I wouldn't vote for a Republican if they had a gun to my head.

    January 5, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. jvollman

    If you listen closely, you can clearly hear that what he said was, "I don't want to make a lot of people's lives better by giving them someone else's money..."

    January 5, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. NAACP

    I like Jealous's stat about the majority of welfare recipients in Iowa being white. I bet the majority of people on welfare in Colorado are white too. How about the majority across all 50 states?

    January 5, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. GaryB

    The fact is although there is a disproportionate amount of African Americans on welfare, in terms of sheer numbers, most welfare recipients are white, with a very large number of them coming from red states (and that's not even counting corporate farm subsidies and government handouts to already profitable corporations). I think that Santorum realizes that in today's GOP, there's nothing to be lost by hanging our economic problems on one minority or another. Santorum, like many republicans, has never had a problem with Federal handouts (check out his earmark record in congress), as long as the money is going to people like him.

    January 5, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Karla

    OH NO HE DIDN'T! Let me tell you peeps something about Mr. Santorum. I am a resident of Pennsylvania. This man is not in the "black" community EVER! He is lying big time! I have lived here my entire life and never seen him in Philadelphia. He hangs only with the white men in the "Republican" part of the state. He is ONLY into Rich, White men becoming richer. And he will govern that way, too. Woman, minorities, and the poor are his targets. Dictator would be too good of a word for him. He wants to rule as a "christian" republican but does not know the meaning. Women are his biggest target. I'm very excited that if Rick actually wins the repub nomination, OBAMA will definitely get his second term. Hands down!

    January 5, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Terry Gloege

    Slack people, Wack people, Sack people, Mack people, Tack people, Black people. Yup, it's obviouly just a slip of the old twisted tongue. Many of my tack people friends are on welfare.

    January 5, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Philly Rich

    Everyone needs to calm down and truly listen to his diction. The dude never said "black people's lives", he wanted to say "people's lives", he stumbled on the P and came out with what sounds like "bli", then caught himself and said "people's lives" immediately afterwards. He's got an issue with his upper lip and teeth as it is. Just watch him talk in general. I cant stand the dude but we need to be intellectually honest with our criticism.

    January 5, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Stephen in VA

    At least the GOP crowd is entertaining as all hell.

    January 5, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. Angimomma

    I watched it three times. No doubt about it...he said BLACK.

    January 5, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Church of Suicidal

    Can you imagine him saying this to a crowd of African Americans? Nope. I can't imagine Frothy Rick speaking to African Americans in the first place.

    January 5, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. chris

    He said it clearly, "black people." Man up and be accountable to you deliberate deed. You cold hearted republican!

    January 5, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. Canopy

    What is Iowa like 90% white? He knew what he was saying.

    January 5, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. kman821

    The downside ... he lost the Black vote which he never had ... the upside ... he gained the racist vote which he already had. It can't just slip out of you mouth when you're "tongue-tied" if the perception wasn't already in his warped mind.

    January 5, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. judith

    It's interesting that Santorum is all in favor of giving "welfare" to corporations in terms of slashing their tax liability, but is opposed to be badly needed help for Americans living in poverty. Some Christian this guy is–did he totally miss the Gospel message about helping "the least among us." More of the same GOP Gospel of helping the filthy rich and further expanding the gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else.

    January 5, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. McCain

    Why is working with AA discussed as if its a chore?

    January 5, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. mikeD

    Republicans are bigots until they prove otherwise. No surprises here.

    January 5, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. V in Chicago

    He definetly said "black". He can try and spin it any way he wants, but he definetly said the word "black". I would have so much more respect for him if he admitted his words and then apologized for them – but only if he truly was sorry. The fact that he is denying it only makes me believe that he meant what he said, but now realizes how biggoted and racist it was and it trying to distance himself from it by trying to spin it to say he didn't use the word and EVERYONE ELSE who heard it is wrong – just reeks with arrogance. He just lost any points he had from me. Definetly not the person he put himself out there as and definetly NOT the person who should be in the White House!

    January 5, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. unretired05

    It's just as possible that Sanitarium as that I would mistype.

    January 5, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. happynurse

    just proves what a fool he is....this guy couldnt even get re elected in his home state...i wonder why

    January 5, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. nowukno

    i did not say black.......I WOULD NEVER SAY THAT OUT LOUD...! google TIME MAGAZINE: WELFARE:THE WHITE SECRET.....then get a grip.....!

    January 5, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Jorge UU Boosh

    What's REALLY ironic is that many more whites are on welfare than blacks... As a PERCENTAGE, yes... but not by total numbers,

    What a DOFUS.

    January 5, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. BRYAN

    I'm by no means a conservative or fan of Santorum, but I honestly do think it sounded like he accidentally combined the words "people" and "lives" so it came out as "plive". Who knows, that's just what I heard.

    January 5, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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