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. Atul Chaudhary

    To start with, I am not a Santorum supporter. I didn't see him utter those words but even if he said that, media should see his good intentions and his history. I don't think he ever meant any ill of blacks. In fact, he is talking about upliftment of them instead of hand me down approach.

    January 5, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Mark in CA

    Maybe my post was too long. So I will break into a few short ones. Yes – it does matter what he said – and more so what he meant – BUT – since there is doubt let's take a look at facts that are 100% certain:
    1. Santorum wants all abortion to be illegal without exception – not even for rape or incest.
    2. Santorum wants to forever ban gay marriages – including retroactively dissolving all current ones (that's small government?)
    3. when the husband of the woman Senator Ensign was having an affair with asked Santorum for help (since Santorum is a friend of Ensign) – Ensign helped his friend – not the husband. That is in Congressional Report investigating Ensign. So much for Santorum's family values.

    I am male, straight, married with 2 kids, and Christian. AND I believe in separation of church and state – and I don't like hypocrits. Therefore, I am VERY MUCH against Santorum being President.

    January 5, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  3. Jon

    It doesn't sound to me like he said "black." It sounds to me like he started to say a word that started with a "b" (which could be "black," but who knows) and then fused it into "lives." You can distinctly hear the "i" sound in "lives" – a sound that is not at all the same as the "a" in "black." I should know...I majored in linguistics in college and this was the sort of thing we had to do in class – pick out what sound something was.

    January 5, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. mcdanp

    Reminds me of Blazing Saddles. 'The sheriff is a ni...."

    January 5, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  5. lexgreen

    Actually, it sounds like he transposed the words "people" and "lives"

    i.e. "I want to make p-lives..people's lives better..."

    January 5, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. ABC

    I listened to it 5 or 6 times and I don't see how you hear anything but "black people's lives."

    January 5, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  7. HAHAHAHA

    well-it now doesn't really matter what he meant to say-the fact that he is trying to say he said something else is strange and more telling about his tactics....this guy is no good.

    January 5, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. David

    Watched the Video, Did you see the face of the Camera guy , Black guy when he said black! watch it again!

    January 5, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. Jon

    @lexgreen: That is probably what it is.

    January 5, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. BriSoFla

    HE SAID BLACK. If you didnt hear it, you need a hearing aid.

    January 5, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Ronald Romney

    Sounded like "Blah". Didn't here the "K" at the end. Sounds like a Fruedian slip tho. This guy is a shlep compared to Romney. If there were no bigotry against Mormons, he would have been annoited long ago.

    FACT: Mitt has more experience for the job of POTUS then Obama did comming in.

    Bama was a virtual unkown, a rising star from one of the most politically corupt states in the union. Blog sold his seat for crying out loud! Lol. If Obama desreved a chance, then surley Mitt does too. Drop the partisonship and religious bigotry for 5 minutes and you will see Mitt has the tools and d rive to restore America. Obama was a novelty, a flavor of the month. Now that we have seen his plethorea of short commings, it's time to give someone else a chance.

    January 5, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. derp

    "Sorry, I did not mean to say blacks. I meant to say nig gers, but I got all tongue tied"

    Rick Santorum

    January 5, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. CHUCK

    This is why I can never vote Republican. Same mistakes over and over. I know lot's of people on walfare and a lot of them do need it, but for this slime ball to target a certain class of people is unacceptable. He was tongue-tied? Probadly not, so that means he said what he meant. Now we all know that he is a typical republican, there is nothing special about him at all, just another talking head who is not smart enough to know he will need all the suuport he can get to win the GOP nomination. Smart guy but at the same time he is dumb has a bag of rocks. So much for getting any of the minority vote.

    January 5, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  14. Ed

    Why isn't anybody focusing on the fact that what he said is a good principal?

    January 5, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Johnathan

    Just a freudian "slip", Ooops.

    January 5, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  16. REG in AZ

    Santorum's, credentials are very weak and, like Cain, Baacmann, Perry, Gingrich and others, he tries to make up for it with hype, including attracting religious zealots, but really offers very little substance and therefore would be scary at best, as president.

    January 5, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Nat Turner

    Ricky Baby!! Why all the hype? This neck is just saying what a lot of ofays think!

    January 5, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Hear what you want to hear

    This is ridiculous. He very CLEARLY said "...make (lives) people's lives better..."
    He meant to say "make people's lives better" but started to say "make lives better" and kinda stumbled over it. I don't care who you support, this is sleazy smear attempt.

    January 5, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. Death to Sycophants

    Santorum is toast in NH. We are the most secular state in the nation. A 4th place finish should cool him down.

    January 5, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  20. BEn275

    He said it.

    January 5, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    If he was indeed tongue-tied, it was still a Freudian slip. It is what Santorum and other conservatives believe: That blacks and other minorities are all either on public assistance or want to be.

    January 5, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  22. Nat Turner

    Now, all the media will rush to "Uncle" Herman Cain to see if what Ricky said is "okay." And of course, that Shine will see no problem with it. Repubs are just disgusting!

    January 5, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. Peter

    Another Republican candidate self-destructs. Yeah, he said black. He fumbled the end of the word because halfway through it he realized he had stuck his foot in his mouth, that's all. Racist pig. Not surprising from a Republican. Those guys sit in their comfy leather arm chairs forming their uninformed opinion of the world. Pathetic.

    January 5, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. annie

    Read my lips, Mr. Santorum ... JERK!!!!!!!!!

    January 5, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  25. Raoul

    This reminds me of the discussions on the Iraq War in the late '00s. Some people DIDN'T hear, "The War will pay for itself with Iraqi oil profits, there are WMD in the northsoutheastwest, Baathist Saddam Hussein and Wahhabist Osama bin Laden are pals, and this War will not benefit Iran whatsoever". They still don't. Some people hear what they want to hear and nothing else.

    January 5, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
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