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. RPE

    As I read most of your comments it is clear most of you have no ability to think or perceive the future of continuing with your team Obama commitment. The man is incompetent in the white house. ANYONE will be better than this guy. He is still in denial about his role in running up the debt and most of you here seem blissfully unaware that he is running us into bankruptcy....or worse yet you do not care. Sad liberal thinkers...ideology before practicality and common sense.

    January 5, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Wise1Speak

    IT IS NOT COMPLICATED

    Rick Santorum stated what he truly believes but realized just as the words rolled off his tongue, that he had just unmasked what is in his heart.

    He tried to hold back his life-long belief that African-Americans are the predominant benefactors of welfare, but he his ignorant of the fact that Whites and Hispanics exceed Blacks as welfare recipients.

    January 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. Larry Brett

    He said alot.....b-lot to be exact. People need to quit trying to alwas make something out of nothing. Ridiculous!

    January 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. RPE

    You all prefer to spend hours blasting an incoherent communication from your sworn enemy right? You all need to grow up...

    January 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. reelamerican

    I love the way the Liberal media try's to twist what he said and put wors in his mouth it sounde like a cough to me maybe you Liberals all have a guilty conscience

    January 5, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. edge

    You see those speed limit signs on the road? You know how "Speed Limit 30" means, "The speed limit from here to the next speed limit sign is 30 miles per hour, not kilometers per hour, and can be pushed to 35 if the road is clear and not congested, but you should probably slow down to at least 25 if it's raining or even less if it's icy."

    You know why speed limit signs don't say all that? Because there isn't enough space. Thank you, bite-sized news culture.

    However, he should have chosen "welfare recipients" rather than "black people". That would be like putting out a sign that says "slow down to 5 miles under the speed limit" without a reference to what the base speed limit is.

    This was an error of reference, and a valid point about the welfare culture, which to be perfectly honest is comprised of a large number of African-American people. That is a truth. But there are lots of other skin colors in the welfare system, living off the rest of us as leeches. I share Santorum's concern about that... but not his racism about the cause.

    So, yes... it was quite racist. And I don't throw that label around lightly.

    January 5, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Wise1Speak

    IT IS NOT COMPLICATED

    Rick Santorum stated what he truly believes but realized just as the words rolled off his tongue, that he had just unmasked what is in his heart.

    He tried to hold back his life-long belief that African-Americans are the predominant benefactors of welfare, but he is ignorant of the fact that Whites and Hispanics exceed Blacks as welfare recipients.

    January 5, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  8. A Wills

    nonsense. he said "a lot of people" ...

    January 5, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. reelamerican

    All right so what he said it DEAL WITH IT

    January 5, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. JB

    There are plenty of reasons to pile on this contemptible POS, but I watched this several times and, even though it sounds awfully close, I think it is just an utterance, like an "um." But whether he truly said it or not, how priceless would it have been if the guy holding the mic had clocked him in the back of the head?

    January 5, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. Burt

    Tongue-tied, "Oops..." brain freezes, "I'm not a witch." There you have it. The GOP.

    January 5, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. MAFV

    Mr. RPE,
    You're are wishfully thinking.....but stop it. Never, in this countries history has a man under such scrutiny changed this country for the better. It's nothing but jealousy....just admit he, Obama's a bad...SHUt YO MOUTH. Trust me on this, not one of those repudicans will get to the White HOuse. Jealous...Jealous..Jealous..get over it.

    January 5, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  13. Catherine

    It would be so refreshing to hear a politician just once say, look I messed up and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that. Quit making excuses or worse, trying to lie your way out of it. The man is on tape and it's pretty clear what he said. No wiggle room. Put on your big boy pants and apologize.

    January 5, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Saboth

    Republicans do a good job of saying what they don't want to do, but don't do much to say what they will do to fix things. So, more and more people are on welfare, food stamps, etc. You know, many of these people have full or part time jobs? That they WISH they had a full time job where they were paid enough wages (not just minimum wage, because that barely covers the cost of insurance premiums these days, much less food and housing for their families). Yet, corporations are recording record profits. CEOs are earning 10,15,20 million a year. Wall Street has money coming out of the ears. It's easy to say people are lazy and just want welfare, but the fact is, jobs these day simply don't pay enough to support a family, even college-educated jobs don't, in many fields.

    So what's your grand-plan to make your corporate buddies play their employees real wages Repubs? Lower taxes on the already highly-profitable corporations?

    January 5, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. AliTny

    Tongue tied and twisted. Just an earth bound misfit.

    January 5, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  16. Asha

    Ok, but then on another show he goes on to say that he was watching a show about black kids the night before called "Waiting for Superman" he must have gotten confused. First of all "Waiting for Superman" was not about just black children, there were different races of children in the movie. He's a joke!
    President Obama has this one in the bag, keep up the good work Republicans.

    January 5, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  17. John C from Long Island

    From the man that said "MACCACA"...."ummm, not sure what I said...but it wasn't the Black!" What a liar! What a racist! What a perfect GOP candidate- someone who says EXACTLY what the TEA-PARTY members think and feel! Goot Luck Mitt...no way you are gonna beat this guy now...

    January 5, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  18. GailS

    Rick is full of it. He loves playing the race card. I'll be so glad when this election is over.

    January 5, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  19. SixDegrees

    I'm sure what Santorum meant to say was “I don’t want to make those people who bear the mark of Cain's lives better by giving them someone’s money."

    January 5, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. Whatever

    Santorum is stupid for saying that and singling out blacks. That said, a disproportionate percentage of blacks are on welfare compared to other ethnic groups. It's a fact, whether the race-warmongers at the NAACP like it or not.

    January 5, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  21. FDA

    Sounds like he said "a lot of people's" lives better to me.

    January 5, 2012 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  22. Falcon20

    From the abudance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

    January 5, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  23. reelamerican

    All right Liberals He has apologized on several ioccasions for inappropriate comments about black ,gays,and any other non-white people who as i believe he said could not be related to him for complexionary reasons so get over it accidents happen WWJD

    January 5, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. Tony in Maine

    This will play well with Republican primary voters. You've got to get by them to get to the big time.

    January 5, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  25. bongiojf

    I know you will correct me if I am wrong on this but doesn't the NAACP get all its "pull" from promoting the same position? It seems to me the NAACP benefits from a general perception that black people are poor people. I guess they will have their cake and eat it too. On a related note, I do not know the context of the statement, he should have restricted his comment to the "poor" people without the additional modifier.

    January 5, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
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