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. hgmma

    Please..... This was absolutely intentional. GOP voters eat this stuff up; when a candidate says they want to "take America back" that is code word for taking back from progress made to include minority groups that historically have been disenfranchised.

    January 5, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. NAJEWEH2

    Well, this doesn't surprise me at all.We, people of color experience it everyday; racism Racism/stereotypes based on their past experiences or their family teachings. According to statistics, there are more Caucasian's on welfare than blacks. We don't need someone in office,as chief, whom has these stereotypical beliefs ingrained within. By the way, this country was built on the blood, sweat and tears of africans brought here; where is our retribution. Where is the american people's justice? There's enough money for congressmen to live luxuriously,ball players,superstars,etc, alot of money being spent on the lower classes back @ 7.25/hr. This is the problem after we remove the race distraction; it's people.

    January 5, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  3. 55molecules

    His true colors are shining through.

    January 5, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  4. DJH

    Just like he didn't hear the crowd boo the gay soldier at the debate a few months ago. He should think about gettin a hearing aid.

    January 5, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  5. Oraymw

    As much as I am definitely not for Rick Santorum, and I would love for him to make such a gaffe, I have to say that it seems like he just stumbled as he was talking. I mean, he said "b-brolling" about 3 seconds later. I had to listen to it a second time to catch which part they were talking about.

    January 5, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  6. Primewonk

    He was going to say black. He started to say black and then tried to stop. He only got out the blac.

    January 5, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  7. BLKMANinAmerica

    To many times white people just need to shut up and say nothing at all. Not that he's looking for the African American vote, but he surely wont get it now.

    January 5, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  8. Anti Racist Boston Bear

    Santorum, is openly racist among people he feels comfortable with. No real Republican, who values all human life, would make such a statement. This is a not a candidate, but a being, who could not get re-elected in PA., his own state.

    January 5, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  9. Shpaget

    "Jealous said that in Iowa, for example, a strong majority of welfare recipients are white"

    That's a good one – there's about 6 black people in Iowa.

    January 5, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  10. Jim in PA

    Hm. And I would have thought that a conservative white guy in a sweater vest would have been more cutting edge on the issue of civil rights (eyeroll....)

    January 5, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  11. rs

    No, Santorum spoke accurately. The GOP/TP DON'T want to make anyone's lives better, except of course the very rich, and their new corporate masters. The Middle Class as far as the GOP/TP is concerned can go to Hell.

    The proof? The fake outrage from the GOP/TP over the placement of the head of the consumer watchdog agency. The GOP/TP had filibustered that position (along with hundreds of others) in an attempt to ensure the agency could not function. It's job? to protect Amercian citizens from predatory lending activities from non-bank lenders. Same with the NLRB positions. Their job? To protect American workers. Meanwhile the GOP/TP works to make bankruptsy easier for their corporate handlers (sheilding them from financial responsibilities), while making it harder for citizens.

    There they go again! Supporting the rich over the rest of us!

    January 5, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  12. Robert - Atlanta

    If he intended to use another word what was it? What word describing welfare recipients sounds like black? Surely – he was not stammering because he almost said the other word, the word he uses in private and with his close friends to describe African Americans. Slick Rick wouldn’t lose any support from his followers no matter what he called “those people”!

    January 5, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. iamanordinaryguy

    @Nancy – It's not important at all to be politically correct. In fact, pretty much every member of society hears "politically correct" and dislikes it. No, what's important is to not be a racist.

    January 5, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  14. saopaco

    Own up to it, you pansy. Anyone who watches the video knows what you said.

    January 5, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  15. Jim in PA

    I would be surprised if he did say the word "black." People like Santorum usually prefer the word "colored."

    January 5, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  16. ML

    Woops! It's as clear as day. He said what he was thinking and he should own up to it. It was in the context of typical GOP dogma. He just slipped. Next story....

    January 5, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  17. Josh

    Wow...its funny that people call Europeans and Caucasians "white" but if you say black instead of African American now you are demonized. Seriously, I don't care for the guy or his politics but is this is a real issue?

    January 5, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  18. ghanmier

    Just add the word Hispanics to Blacks and Santorum would have been more accurate.
    What is wrong with the truth?
    Go to any supermarket at the beginning of the month and see the long lines of food stamp recipients with baskets loaded to the brim. Blacks and Hispanics behind the carts. Guess who foots the bill.
    Political Correctness just masks the truth.

    January 5, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  19. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    @ Nancy...
    from your response I can not only tell you are NOT black but another far rightwing job.
    First of all it is a total INSULT to claim that only black people in this country are on welfare.....what about the white people and Latinos that are as well?
    And one thing Rick said I agree with, people want JOBS not handouts and that includes many on welfare and food stamps that prfer a real check and not a government one. The GOP is very good at putting lables on people. He may not have meant to just point out black people but maybe it was just a Freudian (sic) slip meaning he really thought it but mean to say it. Just another reason I really don't care for Santorum.

    January 5, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  20. the alternative

    He's a republican, what did you expect??????

    January 5, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  21. Matt

    Only in America does something like this matter. You can substitute any race there and the point is a good one.

    January 5, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  22. Clyde

    Why would anyone expect anythig else out of him? Santorum, like all republicans, is fueled by hatred and bigotry.

    January 5, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  23. When they open their mouths, they insert a foot

    I grew up around evangelicals like Santorum. I went to a fundamentalist baptist school that was even more to the right than an evangelical school, but you can use the same paint brush to describe both. I would be surprised if someone like Santorum had said anything different. This is the typical rhetoric I heard growing up from this particular bunch of people.

    January 5, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. ja

    corporate america receive welfare, the titles are fancy, tax abatements (freezes), farm sudsidies, striped down all is a form of welfare

    January 5, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. fred ca

    Wow...the naacp thinks that is what he said (although if you listen, honestly, to the tape it is clear it is NOT what he said) and they are upset? This is the same organization who had at it's head a person who, when forced to leave leadship for illegally using 100's of thousands of dollars to cover-up a sexual issue stated he was being 'driven from the industry? The naacp has reinforced what they are...a useless race-baiting industry.

    January 5, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
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