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. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    What was the question asked?...I will not make judgment until I hear the question that was asked, then it will tell me much about what deep embedded thoughts that Santorum have about Black folk.

    January 5, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  2. Steve, New York City

    Santorum is truly one of the dumbest people on the far right – a true arch-conservative (if you're not exactly like him, then he thinks you're inferior).

    While perhaps he (intellectually) edges out Sarah Palin, if I at least had to pick someone who has a good heart and is generally benevolent, I would pick Sarah Palin over Santorum any day!

    January 5, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  3. Andrew

    How can the state of Iowa support such a blatant homophone , racist, bigot like Santorum ?

    January 5, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  4. Don

    "Tongue-tied", huh? Right. Santorum is walking that careful walk that the other GOP "contenders" are having difficulty with: He is expressing (ever so subtley – even apologizing for it like here) what the tee-party and racist elements of the GOP (possibly a larger sector than anyone knew) like to hear. It IS what they are thinking and GOP candidates have been playing these aging "conservatives" fears for years... all the way back to Reagan (his welfare queen fantasy)...and perhaps even back to Nixon's "southern stratgedy" to divide voters on race.

    January 5, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  5. Two and the Door for House Republicans

    Ok I watch the vid and yeah he seemed to be “tongue-tied”, but you can bet your sweet 'A', he was thinking it!! LOL

    January 5, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  6. Jake

    Ummmm the jury is still out on this one.

    January 5, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  7. First

    So...he paused right before saying black....thought better of it....couldn't think of anything else so he mumbled it hoping to be able to spin it later if anyone caught it. Damn microphones and cameras. Can't anyone be openly racist while running for the white house anymore?

    January 5, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  8. David Wells

    He said black.

    January 5, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  9. runner305

    What is with all of this politically correct crap already? Mohammed Ali always used the word "black". He actually had a disdain of the phrase "African-American". If you want to say that Santorum was isolating blacks to be the only welfare recipients, that is one thing. But let's PLEASE stop this other nonsense, ok?!

    January 5, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  10. Baby Boomer

    Okay, I watched the video. Is he crazy or does he think we are? It's so clear that he said "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.”

    News flash, you nut job, BLACK people have been working and earning their way for hundreds of years in this country. What's more, our ancestors worked and earn your ancestors way as slaves for far to many years. How dare you suggest that the people on public assistance in this country are majority black. How out of touch with reality are you?

    I soooooo tired of listening to folks who've grown up in non-diverse situations talking as if they actually know something about another ethnic groups experience.

    “TONGUE-TIED”. Really???? That's the best explanation he's got???

    January 5, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  11. Phil in KC

    Baloney! I saw the footage. He didn't stumble. He very clearly said "Black". He not only propagates the stereotype of blacks, but all welfare recipients, as lazy cheats who don't want to work. Those people exist, but there are a lot more who are truly in need and have nowhere else to turn. One more reason why I don't like the far right and their extremist views.

    January 5, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  12. S

    Of course, he said, 'black'.

    January 5, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. Jordan

    He said, "black." He hesitated but he said it. I hate that he lied about it though. Why can't folks just admit their mistakes, apologize and move on?? Either way, no point in getting sensitive and upset about it. Yeah I'm talking to you NAACP.

    January 5, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. Jules

    Just watched the video – for sure he said "black people." He can try to explain it away by saying he stumbled, but if he did, he stumbled into the word black.

    January 5, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. icecold

    Well, now we know that Santorim is a liar bc if he didnt say "black people's lives" then I am Elvis Presley. That was racist and shameful for him to pick out black people as the source of white people's problems. This is why Republicans have such a terrible image among minorities and why we would never vote for them. Even the article states that Iowa has more whites on welfare than African Americans.

    January 5, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  16. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    You said what you meant and you meant what you said Rick. Not all of us are on welfare scumbag. I was born and raised in the ghetto and I'm doing just fine without any handout from anyone. As far as calling me black, well I am black. I get offended when I get called african american because I'm not african american, I'm American!

    January 5, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  17. KH

    He's full of it...if he was tongue tied it was because he realized he said Black People and tried to blur over it. He wasn't tongue tied anywhere else in his little speech. If he didn't say 'black' what was it? blat? blah? block?

    This guy is nutty...the other day he said "Walmart doesn't need unions...they're not going anywhere" Of course not, they are paying people minimum wage service industry jobs to sell manufactured goods that are now made in China! Walmart is probably China's biggest customer!

    January 5, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. kmp

    Now that is something I don't hear everyday "I was tounge tied", you hear "I misspoke" a lot but tounge tied. How then does it come out as "I want to make back people" doesn't make sense, he meant black and he is backpeddaling. It has long been assumed that the only people on Welfare are black people, so his statement isn't a mispeak or a tongue tied moment he spoke the truth as he sees it, and it is Shameful.

    January 5, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Name king

    Nothing to see here folks just another repubs candidate playing to their rabid right winged voters.

    January 5, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  20. papanez

    That's my Santorum. that famous intolerance is beginning to re-appear. This ought to be fun.

    January 5, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. nowukno

    Hmmmm...it was the night b4 CHRISTmas......!

    January 5, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  22. warren

    REpublicans work hard alienate african americans.

    January 5, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  23. Justin

    It's obvious he didn't say "black". He started to say "lives" and then realized he needed to say "people's lives". The real story with this is that something so obviously bogus would gain media traction. A second story is that Santorum, while I think he must have a world view more accurate than Romney, is obviously engaging in filthy rhetoric.

    Democrats really want people to become dependent on the government so they can get their vote? That's tantamount to saying democrats are evil power obsessed villains, the stuff of movies where a Bourne or a Jack Bauer rises to end the conspiracy.

    Democrats (i.e. half the country) think that the quickest solution to help people that suffer is to do it by force of law. If someone is disabled or out of work and someone else has two homes on the coast and plays the stock market like a gambling addiction, Democrats say, "Lets take from the later to help the former." In fact that is the most obvious solution. You could wait for the rich, of their own volition, to give to the poor instead of directing the economy to produce things that aren't necessary, but the most sure and immediate solution is a legal Robin Hood. Democrats may be wrong but that is the most obvious thing to try.

    Republicans seem to think that if you're poor or suffering, it's likely because you've not taken your individual responsibility to lift yourself up. They may have a case, but they never, the conservative "christian" party NEVER, makes the case. Present some research for crying out loud of how the most obvious solution is wrong. "The rich are the job creators so we can't take from them" just doesn't cut it, particularly when the economy is in a dump as there are piles of cash everywhere that aren't being spent or lent.

    I happen to think the country might best be served having Republicans in control, at least until we can get some, any, long term entitlement reform that says, "yes we are going prevent the complete collapse of the United States." Democrats seem to be in denial although getting any reasonable finite tax increase in return for a sustainable budget for not just 10 but, 20, 30 or 50 years is a deal the Republicans should have taken.

    In summary it is very discouraging to hear useless rhetoric out of the latest best non-Romney.

    January 5, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  24. Dean

    What's the issue...Santorum is correct. African-Americans are statistically (as a percentage) the largest recipient group of welfare benefits.

    January 5, 2012 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  25. Kaycee

    Right...no one heard you say that. I heard it just fine when I watched the video. If that was not the word you were wanting to use, then what 'b' word were you looking for? Either way, the word probably was not a good one.

    January 5, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
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