Santorum on controversial remark: I was 'tongue-tied'
January 4th, 2012
10:27 PM ET
2 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. Nat Turner

    So what did he say if not "black," – Blue??? This boy is dumber than he looks. You're finished before you started, Ricky! At least have the balls to stand by what you say!

    January 5, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. ccs

    There is definitely a "bl-" in there. The options I can hear are:

    "I don't want to make black people's lives better..."
    "I don't want to make blind people's lives better..."
    "I don't want to make blah people's lives better..."

    I don't really hear any other options there, and the final one, while amusing, makes no logical sense at all.

    January 5, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. seriously???...no, seriously??

    Those of you defending him are clowns-and I don’t care if some of you are claiming to be Obama supporters or not. I couldn’t care less if you supported an oak tree for president—you are plain, flat out wrong on this one.
    I have watched this multiple times…backing it up right at the point where he says what he says, looking at his lips, with the volume on 10 in crystal clear CD quality sound. He CLEARLY was saying black, and the only tongue-tying was his realizing what he was about to say—as he was in a zone, in a groove preaching his views, and was caught up in the moment—but at the last second, just as he was about to, again, CLEARLY say black, he said to himself “oh s***”, and tried to clean it up, but it was too late.
    Funny if he was so tongue-tied, how he juuuuuuust happened to be tongue-tied at that particular point in his speech, because up to that point, he was clearly articulating his points of view, without a problem in the world. Again…got to the part where he was going to say “black peoples lives”, remembered where he was, and funny of all, that there was a black camera-man behind him, and tried to clean it up. Tongue-tied, yeah ok, whatever. I’ve got a lot full of DeLoreans for sale, too…

    January 5, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    This out-of-touch nimrod is just milking his moment in the sun for a bigger payoff as a lobbyist. Everyone with a fraction of a brain (including creepy Rick) knows he has absolutely NO SHOT at the nomination. But we get to watch CNN and the rest of the media fawning over the flavor of the month in the interest of ratings. The empire continues its inexorable decline. I LOVE AMERICA!!

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

    It sounded like "I don't want to make live- people's lives better by giving them someone's money" to me. I'm not a big fan of this guy but let's not put words in his mouth.

    January 5, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. CG

    I don't know, there's just something about Santorum that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

    January 5, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. John

    Certainly sounds like he said "black people" to me.

    January 5, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. laurijst

    I loathe Rick Santorum. I think he is an intolerant, narrow-minded, ignorant, stupid prude and the fact that there are people who actually support him and his ideas is a sad and scary commentary on our country. But I don't think he said "black"; he may have wanted to, he may have thought it, but in that tape I just don't think you can definitively declare that he SAID "black".

    January 5, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. buc

    I sure Santorum singled out Blacks as welfare reciepients because he was addressing the crowd and use the pronoun them instead of you all or poor people, watch the viedo again.

    January 5, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Michael

    Funny how these politicians seem to remember every word of every conversation, except those that people find offensive. I don't need your "help", Ricky. I'm a black man who's worked everyday of my life since I was 14 and have paid taxes since I was 18. I've worked my way through college and earned both bachelor's and masters' degrees and served this country in the Marine Corps. I've given more than enough to this country through my taxes and military service and yet I've NEVER asked for anything in return. You, Ricky, are an insult to millions of hard-working African-Americans who do put in an honest day's work.

    GOP, be careful. Now that Cain's out you no longer have anyone who can bash blacks and get away with it by virtue of his skin color!

    January 5, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  11. momoya

    Sounds like "Black" to me. Actually, as Peter pointed out, it sounds like he realized it was a bad word choice right when he got to the "k" sound, but it was too late to do anything about it. He's used that term or "black people" often enough for it to imply a deeply seated internal bias. It's not that he says the term itself, it's how he uses it within his daily rhetoric. He's an unintentional racist; he doesn't mean to be biased, and he doesn't mean to say things that show his prejudice, it just leaks out. Now that it's on the national radar, though, he's done for.

    January 5, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  12. freidamurray

    I"n 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." Hmm... even if he didn't say black (which he did), what did he mean to say? Oh, African-American. IDIOT!

    January 5, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Toni

    He just said what's on the minds of most of the Tea Partiers. They are basically driven by racial economic ideology.

    January 5, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. Mark

    Even if he didn't mean "black" his entire premise on what is "wrong" with America is misplaced. This GOP "Get a Job" solution they keep throwing out to the middle class is hollow when there are millions more people wanting jobs than there are jobs available. This "get a job" mantra of the GOP is pretty much the same as "let them eat cake" solution just before the French revolution. The GOP paints themselves into a corner on one hand by saying the government should have nothing to do with creating jobs while they give more and more money to companies who offshore American jobs overseas. Corporate America has had years of lower taxes and the best profits in the world, yet they fail to create jobs for Americans. Welfare is not even an issue until you have more jobs available than people to fill the jobs. Once you have companies raising pay, offering better benefits, and lines of companies waiting outside our homes for jobs instead of people lining outside of companies begging for jobs.... then start talking about how the lazy Americans will not take the millions upon millions of good paying jobs available.

    January 5, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. clickit

    What is so amazing to me is that there are people on here who are saying he DiDn't say "Black" people. How in the world is that possible. It wasn't a stumble of the word. I'm "Black", and even if he did say it, I understand where he's coming from. I know he realizes that he shouldn't of said it out loud. There are some people on here who immediately dismiss it as no big deal. I'm amazed at how people have no empathy for other peoples feelings. They don't even understand that it hurts those of us who work hard and overcome this type of thinking. And even though we are strong enough to "shake it off", it's very disappointing to know that there are people in high places that feel that way about us... Oh well, we've been through much worse.. What don't kill us makes us stronger!!!

    January 5, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. Rich - Atlanta

    I think he said "lives" just before and after " people. I don't think he said black.

    January 5, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. Iconoclast

    I guess I have a pretty perverted sense of humor. I keep picturing Santorum on the stage with Romney and Newt in the background performing a "rap" number. It would be the best demonstration in the world that at least certain white people (i.e., republicans) have no sense of rhythm at all, or for that matter, any sense at all!

    January 5, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    I just watched him on the news. He most certainly DID NOT say black. This is a bogus issue.

    January 5, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. CD

    My question: Why has this not been a major topic in the main stream media? Especially since it was probably these very comments that invigorated his racist base and catapulted him into the 2nd place Iowan finish. i seem to recall the media frenzy over Jeremiah Wright's (quite accurate) comments during the last election cycle. Yet, Santorum's race-baiting is not worthy of discussion. Post-racial society! Yeah right!!

    January 5, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. loathstheright

    I just watched him on the news. He most certainly DID say black. This is not a bogus issue.

    January 5, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. Jack Francione

    What's pretty funny is the look on the sound guys face (right behind and next to Santorum). He's probably thinking to himself "Did he just say what I thought he said?"

    January 5, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. Brendan

    I dislike Santorum as a person and a politician. I don't think he's a friend to African Americans, either. But I think that was a simple stammer and he was not singling out Black people in this instance.

    January 5, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  23. Lee

    I watched the video and it sure sounded like he said the word black. Anyways, this guy is a joke like the rest of the repub clowns who want to be president.

    Go Obama 2012!

    January 5, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  24. Jay

    He went back and look at the video, and he's still lying.

    January 5, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. Columbus

    C'mon, this is the media blowing a minor gaffe into a racial controversy, so what if the guy said black instead of African American, if he had said white people can't dance, the news would have yucked it up. It's not like he used the N word or said colored, or any other derogatory term, a couple of years ago black was OK. I blame the media for the derision we see in our society, a bunch of political windbags will eventually say something that can be used against them and the media will be sure to be there to capture it and make a big deal out of it.

    January 5, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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