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. Stephan

    I listened VERY carefully to this segment from a newscast and one would have to be deaf to have not heard "black." I'm an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor and am very aware of pronunciation. He said "black." B-l-a-c-k, in comprehensible English. It's obvious he equates poor with black. He didn't say "poor people." He said "black." There you have it–the GOP in all its latent and overt racist glory.

    January 5, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. indyreader

    This is mildly dumb, but only mildly. There are SOOOOO many other things Rick has clearly and repeatedly said that are much stupider than this. Please, people, dig around for his utterances on birth control, Dominionism, etc. The guy is a loon, and just not very bright. Fortunately, it took him the effort of sliming up every county in Iowa to pull to within a statistical tie with Romney, and Iowa is a lot more friendly to theocratic fascists than the east and west coasts. He really has no hope in a national election.

    January 5, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Casey

    I make those kind of speech mistakes all the time. I don't really think that he's racist, and I think the NAACP is over-reacting to a stumble in speech. Obviously, no politician would purposefully say that even to a crowd of republicans.

    January 5, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. Brian

    I don't agree with a thing that comes out of Santorum's mouth. However, I have listened to the tape a dozen times, and it sure sounds, to me, like 'blank' or perhaps ' bline'. And if one does listen to the whole tape, he makes quite a few other similar stuttering errors. This would be no different, except that the hiccup sounded like the word black, and was set in a context that politically correct people don't like. So while I do not want him as President – or even in his current position – I have to say that I do not believe that he said the word black.

    January 5, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Frothy Mixture

    Shhhh!! Let's not make to big a deal out of this until after the primary. Let the wackos on the right give him the nod, THEN we will hang him by his own stupidity. OK? OK.

    January 5, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. Heather

    I am in NO WAY a fan of Rick Santorum. I am a HUGE proponent of equality in all forms. That said, I listened to the tape and he very clearly DID NOT say "black". He stubled over the word "Lives" (pronounced with a long I sound) – he started to say "I dont want to make lives better..." and in the middle of the thought, decided he wanted to say "people's lives better..." and it actually came out sounding like "ply", not "black". This is a non-issue.

    January 5, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  7. Max Powers

    I can't stand this guy, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. It doesn't seem that he's trying to say black. A "Freudian" slip perhaps, but sounded more like what he described. He was going to say one word, then said another instead. That said, please don't vote for this moron. Just because he didn't say something racist this time doesn't mean he doesn't suck.

    January 5, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. Charlie from the North

    He meant to say "them people". I am sure he didn't mean to make anyone mad at him. I hope he does not lose based on that remark. I hope he loses on the basis that his world outlook is about two centuries behind the times. Remember Bill Clinton's "Bridge to the 21st century"? Well these clowns on the GOP side want to build a tunnel to the 19th century. You know back before the last great Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt busted up the trusts, before the 40 hour work week, before worker safety, before women could vote, and it seems like some of them want to go back to before the first great Republican President freed the slaves. Wake up America how about we "Occupy the voting booth"

    January 5, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Nathan

    You are what you think, Rick....a racist pig in far religious family values. You'll never be president of this USA.

    January 5, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. sofunny

    Santarium is racist, just like the rest of Republican rich, assume that black people, hispanic people are on welfare. Wrong 70% white are on welfare across the US. Santarium should go to confess his sins with Father Chester in PA.

    January 5, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    bfd what he said is correct. Its better to earn your own money then taking someone elses.

    January 5, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  12. Janet

    Interesting. He is against helping those who are less fortunate, but believes that all states have the right to ban all forms of contraception. Kind of skewed logic don't you think. The guy is a disaster.

    January 5, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. R. Glenn

    Who cares whether he called them black or African American or one of the five other terms they prefer to be called depending on the individual. What matters is his perspective on welfare and whether or not he really cares about these individuals. Calling someone by a common term doesn't mean anything about how you care about them, whether good or bad. The terminology does not reflect the concern or care. Stop being soooo PC. I once was signed up to receive emails from the NAACP until it became very clear how racist they were. There not about caring, but about using anothers grief for gain.

    January 5, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. telitlikeitis

    This is why people like this man and other Republicans cannot be elected for president. It is too bad that people like him have never been in a diverse environment. Santorum spews such venom from his lips, which itself causes hate and separation. He forgets that if he were elected president, it would be for ALL of America. He still has his Grandfather's belief that this is our (people who look like them only) country. The remark of any one saying "take back our country"? It has never been yours to take back, remember there were already Native Americans and others here (including Mexican and Blacks) before your ancestors ever set foot through Ellis Island???? The average Black American cannot say I'm second, third or fourth generation because they have been here so long. Now, who's more American I ask? I am so sick of Republicans fighting for their freedom, freedom of what? It is really too bad that an American citizen is still being judged by their ethnicity and skin color rather than what they really have to offer. I really hate it when people like Rick Santorum are given a platform to spew this type of ignorance and division. However, in reality, most of America really knows better. This is why his own state didn't elect him back as a senator - he still doesn't get it. By the way, Rick, in your explanation of taking the dead body of a child home, please refer to the Bible and what it says about respecting and handling the bodies of the dead. You can spin it how you like, but there is something not right about what you did.

    January 5, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Seattleite

    He most certainly did NOT say "black". He was speaking fast, and almost said "lives" before "peoples" – sounds like "blive".

    At least bash him on stuff that actually matters. Sheesh.

    January 5, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. Reggie from LA

    It need to be said. Thank goodness Mr Santorum brought it up.
    Let's disregard the word and more to the concept. When many people think or make reference to welfare, visions of African Americans dance in their heads. Especially since the Reagan years and the "blacks/welfare and cadillacs" references. So is welfare then, a reference to African Americans as opposed to a class of underpriviledged people.
    Is saying get rid of welfare a way of saying "get rid of blacks" and their government money purchased Cadillacs? The majority of African Americans as well as white counterparts are wage earners.who don't need to be "encouraged or enlightened" to go to work. THEY JUST DO, Mr Santorum. By the way, you can't AFFORD a good Cadillac on welfare $$.

    January 5, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Frank

    What? Rick Santorum is a hateful ultra-conservative homophobic racist? I had no idea! :D

    January 5, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  18. marty

    Another example of Rick Santorum's finagling and why Pennsylvanians threw him out of office. Rick was upset with a recent comment re: his own family, by Fox commentator Alan Colmes. He felt that it was an intrusion on his private life. That's a 180 degree turn from Santorum's activity during the Terri Schiavo case, a classic case of intrusion. So, which is it, to intrude or not to intrude...that is the question? Will the real Rick Santorum please stand up?

    January 5, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  19. ingyandbert

    I heard the clip on television last night and I couldn't believe my ears when Santorum said "black people." That was before I knew what the controversy was about. If it was that evident to me that he said "black people" then it should be just as evident to him. Instead of digging the hole deeper, he needs to pull his foot out of his mouth and apologize for his insensitivity. Once again, it's not the crime but the cover-up...

    January 5, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. spadyx

    Yeah, I heard "black" too. But of course, we were all listening for the word 'black". Maybe some of us even WANTED it to be "black". Sure, the guy's a knucklehead. And don't worry, he'll put his foot in his mouth again before this whole thing is over (which can't come too soon for me!).

    January 5, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. Taioseach

    He made that statement in a state were 89% of aid recipients are Caucasian.

    Besides, the video is on youtube. Watch it and decide for yourself. Fairly obvious and straightforward he used the word "black" not "blah."

    January 5, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. ReallY!!?

    Unlike Obama who deliberately sterotyped middle America as "clinging to their guns and bible". Or deliberately sat in a church for 20yrs while his anti-semite, racist mentor/pastor spew his hate rhetoric against white and jews. You all had no problem with those deliberate acts of Obama. But lets put words in someone's mouth when he never said it to fit the false narrative that Republicans are racist! Get a freaking clue idiots!

    I saw the tape he did not say black. This is nonsense!!

    January 5, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. Skitownrefugee

    I haven't read the comments but I did see the video and listened closely several times and it's completely clear that he said "black people's lives" – completely clear and now the jerk is denying it. If it was a froidian slip – that would have been bad enough (saying what he was unconciously thinking) – yes bad enough but then to deny it? Where this this crop of republicans come from. You can't find one in the bunch who's even worthy of being president except maybe Huntsman who is as exciting as a pay toilet in a diahreah ward. (Sorry about the spelling – I don't have time today to check it.)

    January 5, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. dduncan

    Dude is busted. He caught himself about 80% into the word 'black', and tried to pull out by emphasizing 'back'. There is a nano second skip thing going on during the word black, but the dude said 'black people'. What a buffoon.

    January 5, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Bill

    That's the GOP conservative values coming out

    January 5, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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