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. Rilla

    I know some black people give us a bad name but a lot of us did not have a chance at a young age mostly all white teachers in black communities that dont teach the black kids like they teach the white kids nobody got our back the police hate us seem like the republicans are for the rich only and Dont care about the average americans (white or black) and obama got to wait until his Next term to do something for us because he know it will cost him everything if white america thought he was trying to help black people the courts fry or throw away the key on us on every little charge they can muster up i love all my gods people(white or black)so i guess all i am saying we need the most help if i take a dog and beat him Dont teach him right work him from sun up to sun down Keep him hungry and dirty abuse his puppys in front him call him angry names and Then think i can let him free and expect his puppys to be like the rest of the community stop treating us like dogs god made us come to america so we can unite and be the best people on earth one more thing our kids need better cops ,and more after school programs these kids in there inner Cities got no where to turn but drugs and crime

    January 5, 2012 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  2. Sunshine

    Disgusting!

    January 5, 2012 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  3. wkndthg

    He clearly said "BLACK"..., no muffle of words.

    January 5, 2012 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  4. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    When oil companies and farmers are welfare recipients, it's called a subsidy. Ricki Santorum won't talk about that. The majority of people who live on welfare and food stamps are white. He skipped that too. The dirty tricks GOBP will take him down ,like they swiftboated Herman Cain.

    January 5, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  5. sick of republican phonies

    I listened. So what DID he say? "Blah People"? "Bluh people"? "Blecch people"? It surely wasn't "blank people" or "blind people". Maybe he was gonna say "blase' people"?

    January 5, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  6. NameBcoles

    Facts; just because it has been brought up, the recent facts are that 38 percent of the population receiving government aid, ie; welfare are black, 39 percent are white, and 17 percent are Hispanic. These are stats compiled by a governmental Dept. That maintains all stats and are usually pretty accurate.

    January 5, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  7. roland

    Seriously black leaders as i am black notice no cares. The assertion that black people are looking for government handouts is the real racist idea. Access to quality Education in America isn't a handout its a right as an American citizen. Most republicans can't get that right. I don't think African Americans as a whole have asked for anything more.

    January 5, 2012 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  8. Marie MD

    Black people only? What about all the white people who are unemployed, the white middle class and the white working poor who are NOT black who are struggling right now?
    You just put foot in mouth. Just like all the rest of the flavor of the month clowns. NEXT!
    Oh right, there's nobody left. paul is NOT going to make it for all you paulinites.

    January 5, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  9. anon-i-mouse

    It was pretty clear to me. I'm sure he didn't "mean" to say it, but with the stammer, he let out what was in his heart rather than what his political brain wanted to put out.

    January 5, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  10. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It doesn't if he said it or not, I think that he doesn't like the "welfare" programs and is looking for an excuse to end it. It would be nice if there wasn't a need to for programs like that because there were no poor. The unfortunate fact is that the government needs to do it because there are people in need. There aren't enough in terms of numbers and large enough in terms of scope of charities and social welfare organizations to take over from the government. That is what the Republicans have trouble understanding. If there were these organizations, then the federal government could step out of that role. I just don't see that happening because the wealthy don't fund them.

    January 5, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  11. Cfrench

    He clearly said black but he's not man enough to own up to it. What's even more sad is how his constituants applauded his clearly racial comment. Republicans are a sad, angry, racist bunch.

    January 5, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  12. HenryB

    Rick, I don't know what you said but I do know that you are handling this very poorly. The more you stumble around for an answer, the deeper the hole gets and the dumber you sound. Acknowledge something and move on. Stick to your points.

    January 5, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  13. The Greedy Old PIgs have a lot angry racists in their deathcult

    The GOBP deathcult has been playing the race card ever since President Obama took office. Equating "black" with "lazy" and "welfare" and "undeserving" has been a standard tactic among the extreme right wing for years.

    January 5, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  14. b9boater

    Of course he said 'black' – it's clear – how typically politico to pretend it was a tied tongue or whatever else – just admit what was in your head and move on, critical of yourself if you feel that's appropriate.

    January 5, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  15. bassman

    We knew it would not take long for our media to call a Republican candidate a racist. Hey it worked in the 08 election. Sadly our media is as predictable as they are in love with Pres. Obama. They will stop at nothing to reelect Mr. Obama.

    January 5, 2012 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  16. GOP is lost

    He is a republican so he thinks;
    All Black people are on welfare
    All Muslums are terrorist
    All Gay people are sinners

    January 5, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  17. Frank

    Good grief! I see the Obama Re-Election machine is in high gear.
    (This "news story" is silly)

    January 5, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  18. DC

    He was trying to say 'people's lives better' and clearly his mind was thinking about the upcoming word 'better' and 'lives' before 'people's' and caught himself after 'blive' came out of his mouth. The NAACP needs to do more careful consideration before knee-jerking to a comment, so in the future it will be viewed as an organization that carefully considers things before making knee-jerk comments.

    January 5, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I could see anyone tripping up in choosing a word, Black vs African American for example. But the sentiment, the gist of what you communicated was pretty clear in your mind, and what some found to be offensive.

    January 5, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  20. Who Are These People?

    Rick Santorum must think that "tongue tied" is Latin for "I accidentally spoke what I really think."

    January 5, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  21. Sadie Boyd

    This illustrates how separate the people governing are from the real people...this guy is a gymnasium full of slurs on blacks, women, gays and the working class. Get rid of this 1% fool!

    January 5, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  22. dave

    Sounds like the head of the NAACP is Jealous

    January 5, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  23. Name unsung

    We are still living in THESE TIMES in 2012??!!! REALLY!!!!!

    January 5, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  24. SCAtheist

    Glad to see he's still in full lying mode.

    January 5, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    So has it taken several days to realize and offer excuses? Please note that the senator is offering excuses for how it sounds, not apologies. He may have honestly stumbled over a choice of words, catching himself in the act of saying "black" and it came out anyway.

    I think someone who offers an apology "if anyone was offended" is not really apologizing. Apologies are supposed to be unconditional. If you apology is sincere, then why would you have to qualify with an "if"?

    January 5, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
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