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. The Other Michael in Houston

    Wow Rick, all you need now is your hood and burning cross and the picture will be complete. Funny, some are trying to defend him, heck, some of you even think what he said was true. For those who think blacks live off the government, well put it this way, I am pretty sure I make more money than most of your make in a years salary, I would be safe to say that the lowest earner in my entire family still nets what most of you gross in a year, most of my family have master degree's and above, and most of our friends are highly educated and earn a great amount of money, and we are all black. And you wonder why only Uncle Tom's support the Republican party. I cant wait to get this over with in Novemeber so I can go through another 4 years of President Obama is the worst president ever because he hair cut is too neat so he must be an elitist.

    January 5, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Michael Kansas City

    Okay, since BLACK is now a bad word, I want to be called a German-English-IIrish-Indian American instead of White. Come on people, I agree that singling out a race as the 'poor' is the real issue here – and he's a bonified gay-hater for sure, but really, don't be surprised – he's a self-confessed devout Catholic. That's the dogma, no surprise.

    Black White Grey, other...unless you were born in another country and came here, then became a citizen, you are an American. WHY continue to divide us – United we are strong.

    January 5, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. runswithbeer

    The offensive part is not his exact wording, it's the words he was fumbling for, not "Black People" but (figger it out). Republicans AWAYS thinks in terms of RACE and HALF of the ones I know use the BIG "N" WORD on a daily basis here in Texas. (I should note that most of the exceptions live in Travis County) It's funny how the Republicans here don't think in terms of race. Rick you really need to reevaluate your position and I would suggest some reading material starting with the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Where the founding fathers thought it important that ALL PERSONS ARE CREATED EQUAL AND GRANTED RIGHTS BY THEIR CREATOR.

    January 5, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Angy

    he meant what he said. Why does he feel it is only African-American & Hispanic people on welfare? He needs to do his homework. Typical racist rethug. this man is suppose to be a christian? Right! his kind always want to put people down. And yes the 1st thing they want to do after making such comments is talk about how much they have done for civil rights. I'm sick of it. he is a RACIST.

    January 5, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Jan Alden Cornish

    I replayed the clip in question several times and what I am hearing him say is are two words mingled "BL...ALOT OF PEOPLE".

    January 5, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. Nickzabad

    Just wondering, even if it was black people that were the only ones on medicaid and food stamps(which is just completely untrue), why would you deny them that? Without it they would die, I am sure you could save the 20$ a month it might cost you to help save lives. And it's probably less per capita.

    January 5, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Duke One

    Santorum is NOT a fiscal conservative !

    January 5, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. Silly Baggers!

    Silly @Nancy. It's not about being PC. It is about being factual. I bet if you were shown the statistics of how many white people are on welfare you would still be in denial.

    January 5, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    The most significant part of the remark is the question to which Santorum was responding. He was asked a question about the impact of foreign economics on the US economy. Santorum responded to it by deriding entitlements.

    January 5, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. Angy

    i listened several times and in addition he feels African-Americans are only qualified manufacturing jobs. Nothing wrong with those type of jobs, but he couldn't even mention higher education potential "black" have. he is a joke.

    January 5, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Expat American

    At the end of the day many White Republican Conservative 'Christians' are still going to vote for him....and for these voters; Santorum's 'tongue-tied' moment only strengthened their support for him.

    January 5, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Tounge-tied he claims, then tounge-tied he is.
    I gess that he would choke on his own name.

    January 5, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. chip

    I think Santorum's a big government, war mongering, crony capitalist, but I don't think he said or even started to say "black."

    January 5, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. JC in SC

    I am a Democrat. I don't like Rick Santorum. I hate prejudicial and racist remarks. But he DID NOT say black!

    January 5, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  15. Frank Chase Jr

    Santorum needs to be committed to a Sanatorium. His statment is an outrage. He can defend his racism all he wants, but this radical should not be in the whitehouse. I'm African-American and and Sanatorium needs to be repuiated by all the other so-called presidential candidates. Don't let this guy get away with this. He has malice in his heart and soul. CNN don't be a coward, call him out on this, make him explain who are the black people he's talking about. If this man gets into the whitehouse, it will be a sad and dangerous time for people of color in America. This guy is a Nazi.

    January 5, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    I recall Trump referring to us as "the blacks." Listen! I don't know what day in age these people are living in, but this ain't the 60's and we are NOT our parents and grandparents. Come out your mouth the wrong way and your likely to get dealt with. There will always be racial tension in this country. But that's the veil thats been put over your eyes to divide us. There real battle in this country is income inequality. The rich versus the poor. And the rich have won that fight and continue to stomp their Florsheim hardbottom penny loafers on our necks.

    January 5, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  17. Maja in NJ

    What I heard him say was, "I don't want to make a lot of people's lives better by giving them money..." He didn't say black.

    January 5, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. noteabags

    You said what you were thinking, Rick. Stopy denying it.

    January 5, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. Bee

    Whatever he said, it's a drop in the bucket. Anyone who wants creationism taught in the public schools is not fit to be President of the United States.

    January 5, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. matrix09

    Come on, how stupid does this guy think we are? Even if I were deaf enough to belive his tounge tied nonsense, the context of what follows makes it pretty clear what he said and meant. I think that what I resent most about all of this is not just the obvious blatant bigotry, but the stupid excuses they give for it. Santorum, your right wing stooges may be that stupid but the rest of us aren't.

    January 5, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Ronincalif

    Conceptually he is right. We need to get ALL people off the dole as much as possible. Able bodied People of all races who need a hand should get it for a limited amount of time. Sadly, there are those who for several generations ahve not been productive and have become welfare dependent.

    January 5, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. Inrealityhere

    If you want the truth about Santorum ( and it appears by the comments many of you don't ) just look at his record. He has done more to help the black community more than any other of the politicians. Help, I said, not hinder just to get their vote.

    January 5, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. lexgreen

    Oh, I see, he was tongue tied, what really meant was maybe:

    "back people", or "Barak people", or "crack people".... something like that.

    January 5, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  24. Matt

    The black camera guy behind him heard it!

    January 5, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. Robert - Atlanta

    All republicans are in denial on every subject; if they ever admitted any rational fact their whole world would crumble – No racism, No evolution, No global climate change, No price gouging oil companies, No overpaid CEOs, No corporate corruption, No fake news on FOX, No war crimes, and on and on! I’m sorry you are so stupid, so gullible, and so easily brainwashed that you have all become ignorant, paranoid, confused and self loathing, angry little dweebs. It is a sad way for anyone to have to live. Too bad rational human beings will only laugh at your desperate attempt to cover for every Moron in the GOP.

    January 5, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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