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. LHandRBrain

    You are all very opportunistic. Ideologues on the entire right/left spectrum are squirmy, ugly self serving people that don't believe that integrity can win the day anymore, so they use nefarious "gotcha" techniques to bring their enemies, and turn nothing into something. Name me a hero that you look up to, that would attack a man for obviously mincing his words? You think Gandhi would do this? How about Jesus? How about Nelson Mandela? How about Ayn Rand? Or Noam Chomsky? Grow a spine already.

    January 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. OldRightRep

    These are the kinds of racial "slip ups" that point to a politician who is truly racist. Though I don't expect the media to bring this up anywhere near as often as the accusations against Ron Paul, who by the way has NEVER "slipped up" or said anything racist or bigoted in 40 years of giving speeches.

    Then again, Ron Paul is truly challenging the status quo, where Mr. Frothy is just another Big-Government RINO bigoted warmongering chicken-hawk which the media much prefers.

    January 5, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. adam

    Watch & decide 4 yourself? i watched, i decided, yes he did say black and he was not mumbling. He said after a pause.

    January 5, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. McBara

    What ever happened to separation of church and state? Citing Catholic and Christian doctrine seems rather in opposition to one's constitutional right to freedom of religion...or a lack thereof.

    January 5, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. emma

    Santorum said "black". I listened to it several times. That's too bad because I thought a presidential candidate was suppose to be concerned with ALL the people of the USA. He is making the assumption that only black people are on welfare. What a slap in the face to all the hard working black people that work hard for their money and refuse to accept welfare. Conservative, I don't think so. He sounds a little prejudice. No thanks, he doesn't have my vote. I'll give it to Romney instead.

    January 5, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Alison

    Oh he most definitely said "black". He can try to backpedal out of this one but it won't work. Can he just end his campaign already? Between that and the homosexual remarks from 2003, and him basically ripping off a local Pittsburgh school district of charter school tuition, as well as many MANY other ridiculous things, as a Pennsylvanian, I don't want him anywhere near the White House.

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

    Yes, because there are no white people on welfare in this country? Have you the trailer parks that saturate rural communities?

    January 5, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. nicole harding

    Why would CNN even include that it "could be a stumble"........... he said black...end of story! This guy not only thinks I am lazy, non working welfare recipient...he thinks I am deaf as well! Kick rocks!

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

    Santorum, Romney, and Paul... Man is the GOP in trouble.

    January 5, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. brianyg

    As a bi-racial; black or african american (if you must) person... who cares if he said black or african american... the fact that he has the gall to suggest that the majority of blacks in this country are subsisting on government handouts is the real issue. It is a flat out lie. The Blacks (and Latins and Asians)that I know have degrees, aspirations and are quite industrious... including myself. It is an absolute LIE that the black population of the USA is living on government assistance. Do you have any idea how many newly arriving Russian immigrants are receiving assistance from the US government? Get your facts straight... and white america, believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

    January 5, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. sosofresh

    the reason he mumbled is because he realized that he was in the middle of saying something that was going to be poorly received. In terms of political damage, he really doesn't need to apologize that much... stereotypically speaking, no black people would ever vote for him anyway and the white people who are likely to vote for him are probably not ultra-sensitive to this kind of thing.

    January 5, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Carmen

    I think Santorum is an evangelical tool with no knowledge of the purpose of the office of the President. I listened to the video, and he didn't say "black" people, although that is certainly what it sounds like he says. He said, "I don't want to make mm...live... people's lives better..." It was, as he said, a tounge-tied moment. Now, can we get back to talking about what a tool he is?

    January 5, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. SGT RAYRAY

    This is funny…. When people are tongue tied they usually say the first thing that comes to mind, in his case it was black people, which is probably his true sentiment. He could have just said people in general and not single out a specific group. On top of that, he is speaking in Iowa, where you can probably go and visit for 2 days and meet all the black people in the state. If you’re going to run for office make sure you are well aware that you are running for a post that not only represents white America but all the races that compose the true America, this is all of us not a specific group, race or ethnicity.

    January 5, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Jahmonkey

    He clearly said black...watch the black sound man in the background when Rick made the comment. He's like "WTF did he say?" And again when the people were clapping right after Rick made the black comment the sound man looks like he is at a Klan rally. Funny but crazy stuff.

    January 5, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Why would CNN even include that it "could be a stumble""

    MSM False Equivalency Axiom #5: Nothing is allowed to be as damaging as it should be.

    January 5, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Pete

    Yeah, when I get tongue tied I just start spewing a bunch of racist remarks too. Happens to the best of us. And Rick Santorum too, apparently.

    January 5, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. Julie

    Its pretty CLEAR he said BLACK... Nice try to try and defend it but its clear.

    January 5, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. DDanny1

    My wife's deaf aunt is in her late 30's. She became deaf when she was 12 as the result of a head injury received in an automobile accident. She has about 10% hearing in one ear. Since she could hear normally when she was young, her lip reading skills are incredible. I sent the link for the story to her and asked what Santorum was saying. She just texted me. "Oh yeah. He said black."
    By the way, she votes straight line GOP, and she's leaning Santorum since Bachmann quit.

    January 5, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. gotcha

    Yes, he definitely said "black" very clearly, no stumbling. That slip gives Romney the nomination. Santorum has slipped up more than once on referring to "blacks" as freeloaders. What he fails to see is government hand outs go to rich and poor alike. Ru ro.

    January 5, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Krow

    Haters gotta hate. But racism IS a natural pairing with his anti-gay routine. It's like red wine with lasagna. Duh !!!

    January 5, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. AMERICAN EXPAT

    Well, he didn't stutter when he claimed they HAD found those WMDs in Iraq, did he? His credibility is at ground zero!

    January 5, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  22. simp

    When are these white people going to understand, there would be no welfare if the majority on it are nonwhite, it exist simply because the majority on welfare are WHITE!! Sangtorium said exactly what he was thinking and what he thinks is true.

    January 5, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. Palantir

    I despise Santorum every minute of the day.

    But the word "black" isnt in the video clip unless you put it there. He clearly says "lives" twice.

    January 5, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. josephine

    If he thinks a particular group of people are abusing the welfare system and instead wants to get them back to work, so what's wrong with that??? I think his alternative idea is a very positive one. Besides having a positive idea he is not one with all these negative and nasty ads.

    January 5, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. Claudia St. James

    He said what is in his heart and on his mind. He is racist and it should now be loud and clear to everyone.

    January 5, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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