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. KH

    "Actually, it sounds like he transposed the words "people" and "lives"
    i.e. "I want to make p-lives..people's lives better..."
    -----------------------

    Actually it doesn't sound like that at all...the fact that so many people seem to be hearing exactly the same thing and wording it exactly the same way indicates to me that this observation is coming directly off of a spin sheet. Also the phrase "I am no Rick Santorum supporter, but......" is right out of Intro-to-Spin101

    The only possible things it could be if it were not actually "Black People" is Blah, Blat, Block...you pick, but personally I think he realized what he had said after the BL....and attempted to blur over the rest and deny it later.

    January 5, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. CRG

    With the exception of Huntsman, Gangrich, and Romney, this entire republican campaign has been about racism, ethnocentrism, and neo-McCarthyism. One would have to be blind and deaf to not see what the Tea Party, their followers and candidates are really about. I hope these reactionaries never gain control of this country. .

    January 5, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. dragon8me

    He's just another rascist in the Rascist Rep Party.

    January 5, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. fmjk

    So he's a liar on top of being a racist? Why is this not surprising?

    January 5, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  5. Sparky

    I don't hear 'black', I hear a guy stumbling over his words. I'm a staunch Obama supporter and disagree with everything Santorum stands for, but I agree with AZinAK, let's not put words in his mouth. There's enough to disagree with in the things he actually said.

    January 5, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Pat

    I'm Pretty sure that will be in a add come general election time

    January 5, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. orlando smith

    This is typical dog whistle politics with a racial overtone. it is what has beeb insinuated by the right to appeal to the bigotry of much of their base. ....."THe BLACK President wants to give lazy BLACK Peole all of the hard working WHITE folks' money." Statistically speaking the face of welfare is a twenty something single white female. The preferred believe is that WHITE folk work and Black folk don't. He just said what the bulk of his party believes.

    January 5, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Stacey

    I heard the tape clearly. Santorum said the word "black" people. Santorum is a bigot just like the majority of the GOP. No surprise here folks. The GOP are bigoted. You can count the "black" folks on your hands because there are so few of us that belong to the GOP, nor do we want to be part of them.

    January 5, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Dave, CA

    Can't get tongue tied running for president little Ricky! Face it you've got NOTHING but anti-gay hysteria to run on and you will NOT be president spreading lies and hate like that!

    January 5, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. Liz

    Maybe he should have said "colored people" – or can only the NAACP say that? Whole thing is silly. He said quit depending on the government and start depending on yourself. What is wrong with telling people that?

    January 5, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. momoya

    If you slow it down, loop it, and listen a few times, you can hear FOUR distinct syllables: BLA... PEE – PULZ LIVEZ. If you don't hear those four distinct syllables then go get your hearing tested as soon as possible. And if after verifying the fact of those four syllables you don't agree that Santorum intended to say "Black people," then seek professional help on your inability to gauge reality.

    January 5, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. bob

    hey, rick. what does your Christian faith say about lying? time to hit the Confessional.

    January 5, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Stacey

    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.
    _____________________________________________________

    I got all the truth I need from Santorum – that truth is he's a bigot!

    January 5, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. Pete

    What's amazing here is that he talks now as though he himself doesn't know what he said! I listened and thought he said "a lot of people" versus "black people." And if he did say that, then this is not an issue. But how do you look at the video and not recall your own intent or actual words? Eventually the far right's beliefs and politics will fall under the weight of its own lack of moral compass.

    January 5, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Jason K

    Rick has a lot of cannon fodder, why are they calling him racist because he said "blacks". African-American's aren't all black people. They are Americans with African ancestry. It just so happens that I know at least 3 people who were born and raised in Johannasberg South Africa and came to America. All three are white as a sheet, but they are also African-Americans.

    January 5, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. Expat American

    Oh Dear!
    Santorum is in hot water. He needs damage spin control, and he needs it fast.
    He had better find or hire some ‘non-whites’ or to strategically place in the backdrop of his next speech like every other Republicans does – make sure there aren’t any Muslims or Gay heathens though…..
    He needs to keep the Uuhmurikkkan Values Christ Nazis appeased too you know.

    January 5, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Rick

    So he doesn't want to make Barack Obama's life better? What a mean person Ricky is.

    January 5, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Kevin in Atlatna

    I'm black and I was not offended by what he said. I find Santorum to be genuine in his demeanor. However, I don't want him to be my President. Not because he "accidentally" said the word "Black". But because I don't agree with his policies.

    January 5, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. ed peters

    Yeah Rick, nobody worked harder; That's why they tossed you out by what 18 points!

    January 5, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. woodrow

    LOL. We know what you meant Santorum. We don't want to give blacks anything. How about slavery Santorum? Got any new views on that?

    January 5, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. LEE

    I'm not sure why all of the debate..He clearly....said "BLACK PEOPLE"....He is an ignorant candidate who clearly did research his facts. 85% of the Welfare recipients in Iowa are WHITE and 9% BLACK! In addition, if you look at national average we have more White than Black....as welfare recipients...Ignorant remarks such as those made by the candidate continue to support many unfounded and ignorant assumptions! This is unfortunate and sad...but more so because of all the ignorant people acting as if this is no big issue....

    January 5, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Hey! DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I SAID!

    Pay attention to what I MEANT to say.......

    Seriously, every time the Republicans prop up one of their disfunctional candidates, he/she turns out to be crazier than the last one!

    January 5, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. GOOGLE SANTORUM !!!!!!

    This clown will never be President.

    January 5, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. talbet

    The only reason I think he said 'black' people is because I have ears that function.

    January 5, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  25. thinkergal

    Your excuse doesn't pass the smell test, Rick. The racists to who you were appealing know what you meant, and I'm sure they love you for it. The rest of us–not so much.

    January 5, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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