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. Norps

    More Right wing bigotry. I am surprised its even being reported anymore. Is anyone surprised. His only mistake here in his mind is saying what he really thinks.

    January 5, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. Kevin Collins

    He definitely said "black", and Iowa definitely has more whites than black on the welfare rolls - as is also the case in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oklahoma...It's palpably absurd to aver that white people aren't on welfare, just like it's equally absurd to aver that it's only Dmocrats on welfare - go to any GOP-dominated county in any state, and you'll find *plenty* of people (with a lot of them *white*) in the Health and Human Services building applying for that welfare. Why do these people vote Republican? Because they're under this delusion that they're inevitably going to be rich someday, so all these favoring-the-rich GOP polices will eventually benefit them, they think. Pathetic. Oh, and so is Ricky Boy.

    January 5, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. Lfeats

    I think Santorum is a hideous candidate, but hafta cut him some slack on this one....Listen to it, no way he said "black,"

    January 5, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. RPE

    P.S. Stop looking for a reason to blather and start looking for a rallying point together. If anyone thinks Obama is the guy to fix the economy after his first 3 plus years then you truly need help. He simply has no idea how to go about this and when he gets good solid input from his debt commission or business leaders he ignores it. Wake up folks and support the person who WILL address out debt, our economy and put the US back where it belongs on the international front. If you think a tax rate on corporations up to %20 higher than our competitors is working then you really do not care about the country, only your chosen political team.

    January 5, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Lisa

    Granted he could have chosen a better phrase such as "I don't want to make poor people ..." but then someone would get upset because they would think t inferred Blacks or Hispanics. Bottom line is poor people come in all colors; unfortunately they are mostly predominately Black and Hispanic.

    Rather than get pissy about political correctness, use that same energy to help these folks earn a decent income.

    January 5, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. Independent Voters

    Dear Kevin Atlanta my friends are african american and they was very offended I dont know what planet you on but I was listening to the radio that majority of the african american callers was offended.

    January 5, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Grady Richardson

    He said black. Now he's lying about it. He obviously equates welfare recipients with black people, possibly unconsciously. In any case he needs to face up to the truth about what he said and what it tells us (and himself; I've known people who honestly didn't consider themselves racist, despite regularly saying racist things) about his attitudes about black people either conscious or unconscious and how that would affect his governing style in the (extremely unlikely) event that he became President.

    January 5, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. T'sah From Virginia

    ►Dominican mama 4 Obama
    Yes I'm with Lynda and GI Joe. I and mine will be voting for THAT ONE too.Again.
    Obama 2012.◄

    I'm with you guys too – I am voting for "THAT ONE" again!!!

    Obama 2012!!!!!!!

    January 5, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. Jimbo

    I would vote for the black president from Idiocracy before I would vote for Santorum juice and I lean to the right. Religious wackos and people who vote for them need to be ridiculed as much as possible....gloves are off and everything is fair game when it comes to these ignoramus'.

    January 5, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  10. RPE

    Come on, stop rallying for the sake of rallying and starting rallying to save the US. Do you all really believe Obama is going to tackle the debt issue? Do you all really believe that Obama is going to adopt business friendly policies that lower corporate tax rates for US based profits? No wonder companies hire oversees...the costs really do make sense. The FIX is to allow US based workers to compete for the same jobs and that will not occur till the Feds lower to the US tax rates for business.

    January 5, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  11. scoto

    He said "white Iowans" but it came out sounding like "black" right?

    January 5, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. d

    I really dislike Santorum, and I would be disgusted if he actually became president, but he does NOT say "black". He did stumble, but I don't know anybody who pronounces the word "black" as if it rhymed with "live". He pretty clearly says "I don't want to make – uh-live – people's lives..."

    January 5, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. Miguel

    For those who say he didn't say black people, your in denial.
    Bigotry doesn't have a political party, plenty of republican and democrat bigots.
    The problem isn't his use of the word black, if you think that you're daft. The problem is linking black people to welfare as if only black people use it and or abuse it.
    For those who don't know, more white people are on welfare than there are black people in this country.
    37% black (13 million)
    39% white (100 million)
    I guess that welfare queen lives in a doublewide and drives a Chevy Celebrity instead of a Cadillac.

    January 5, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  14. Lekwas

    This is his first test, and he failed woefully. He could say it was a poor choice of word, and moved on. Or he could say I stand by what I said. No, he didn't do any of those; he lied about it even though it's on tape: and he is not even president yet. I guess his Catholic teachings forgot to teach him about the problem of lieing.

    January 5, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. JT

    Santorum is like the girl at the bar that someone settles on after last call. Pretty much all of the better options had been checked out before that point.

    January 5, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. No way

    If you honestly think he didn't say "black"–which is your right–please go to Google or YouTube and find out what else he's said that's racist. He wasn't stammering or stumbling his words then.

    If you think the point is that he said "black" instead of "African-American," go to Google and look up the definition of racism. The term isn't the point. The point is singling out any group for blame based on their race, regardless of the term. If you can't grasp that, go ahead and vote for him–he's counting on your ignorance.

    January 5, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. Mike D

    Yes! He said Black people, because he's in Iowa and was thinking Black people and no one in the audience was Black. He failed to remember the the brother holding the boom mic, who in the face of being insulted, was very professional while on camera.

    January 5, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. JP

    I have no great love for Santorum, I'll likely vote for Obama again. That said, I think it sounds much more like a pause, followed by "lives...people's lives" than the word "black." If you suspend what you want to believe about the individual and listen to the word, it sounds quite a bit more like "lives" than "blacks."

    January 5, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. joe

    Now, if he'd just said lazy black bstards or no good niqqers no one woould have had any issues :)

    January 5, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. tom in tn

    I tried to listen carefully. I played it over and over, at high volume and low. I just don't hear the word black. I hear the BL sound on the front end but I don't the ACK sound on the back end. I think he mumbled something but I don't know what. I think if you put him in scandinavia you could charge him with putting down blonde people and in another setting it might be heard that he's said blind people. I agree with other who have said Santorum has some many other and clearer problems. We don't need this one, real or imagined, to know he's not a good fit for the presidency.

    January 5, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. Sue

    No offense, but I have a loss of 50% hearing in one ear and I CLEARLY heard BLACK. It was disappointing to me as a former life-long republican who went Democratic in 2008 and voted for Barack Obama, but was willing to consider listening to republicans this year, just in case I was wrong, to see that I wasted all those years voting republican! However, in self defense, I have to say that the republican party "of old" was entirely different than the "my way or the highway" party of today. A sad commentary but true.

    January 5, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. Mike

    He said the wrong thing and offended people. By the same token the media needs to be unbiased and nail any "black" politician or celebrity that says "white" with a negative context. Equality, right? All races and creeds need to stop crying over these types of comments and simply act in such a way as to inspire only positive stereotypes. Instead, they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes and waste time being "offended."

    January 5, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. mjcjr

    Sounds to me like he was thinking "black", but thought better of it and tried to change his mind mid-word. Too late though... too late.

    January 5, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Kent Bowen

    My guess is he figured out at the last moment that he had made a poor choice of words and mumbled through the statement. He has also probably now figured out that his showing in Iowa has moved him into the big time where everything he says will be reported and dissected.

    January 5, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. Italofila

    This guy is a LIAR. Not only did say "black" in this instance; but, he also said it in another remark when referring to President Obama's position on abortion rights. He said that Obama’s stance was “almost remarkable for a black man.” REALLY??? What in God's name does being black have to do with it? The guy is a TURD that will wind the clock back to the last century when politicians openly displayed racial bias to garner support of ignorant and like-minded individuals. It's also really a shame that nobody in the audience even flinched at his remark. Is this really where we want to go in 2012? I don't think so (and I am white!)

    January 5, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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