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. Scum 1981

    I don't like Santorum, I think he is a despicable human being who would do serious damage to the country, but I think he did stumble here. Maybe my speakers aren't good enough and I want to think that he said it, because it would help confirm some thoughts that I've had about him, but it didn't sound exactly like that to me.

    January 5, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. RWB1956

    Even if he didn't say it, that still sounds like the current crop of Republicans spreading fear and intolerance and bigotry about people they know nothing about. And sadly, before the day is over, there will be people agreeing to what he alledgedly said. These people just know that all black people are on welfare, all hispanics are "illegals" and all muslims are terrorists. You know, the Archie Bunkers come to life.

    January 5, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Inrealityhere

    It doesn't matter what he says; the fact of the matter is that he opposes the Socialistic ideas that are ruining this country. I don't care if he said "black" or "white", but you can be sure all hell will break out against this man because he's is morally sound. BTW, look at his RECORD and you will clearly see (if you can see at all) he has done more to help black people than anyone.

    January 5, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  4. Freddy

    This Santorum man is simply a racist. When he was talking about President Obama's position on abortion, he also went into racist tantrums. NOT FIT TO BE POTUS in this age and time.

    January 5, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  5. Justin

    Does it really matter if he said black or not? They are black just like white people are white. Its politically correct. They are not African Americans unless they come from Africa so get over it.

    January 5, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  6. Sean

    Call it like it is bro, no Santorum supporter (by a long shot), but give me a break...when you hear of welfare, what race is the first to come to mind?

    Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony made a song about "Tha First of tha Month," which was all about cashing your welfare checks.

    January 5, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  7. bigdoglv

    Big deal! It cracks me up when all you sheep start screaming at the drop of a hat. Your side is no better, no worse, but inept like the rest in our government. People on both sides need to start thinking about important issues. Iran will be #1 by Nov.

    January 5, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  8. eddieb

    This is stupid people get a life. we all slip. I get what he was saying and he is right teach poor people no matter what color they are to work for a living. I live in the city and they are all out to beat the system for freee money and the ones that realy need it suffer. Get rid of the fraud if you can talk you can work.We need to restructure our welfare and ssi system to many getting over on it. Drug test them why should my tax money go to a drug dealer... Obama 2012

    January 5, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. Matt

    I don't mean for this to come across sounding racist, but I find it interesting that organizations like the NAACP are always quick to point out that blacks are disproportionately effected by poverty, unemployment, etc. when it benefits their agenda, but as soon as a white person or any Republican (as we saw with Herman Cain) uses the same talk track they are called racists or in the case of Herman Cain a traitor. I think if The black community wants to create a world that is color blind, they need to stop pointing out color (this goes for Santorum as well) everytime they speak or talk policy. Instead of focusing on blacks, look at the segment of the population the majority of blacks fall into, whether it is poor, middle class, or wealthy, and work to help those segments of the population as a whole. I'm not nieve, racism exists, but I just think the black community as a whole doesn't benefit from an agenda that tries to acheive equality by starting out the conversation by seperating the black community from the rest of the population.

    January 5, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. Henry Miller

    “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.”

    So it's Politically Incorrect to observe that there is greater incidence of poverty among blacks? I'm no fan of Rick Santorum, but this is yet another example of thin-skinned over-reaction by the NAACP.

    Of course, the NAACP is a strong supporter of the Democratic Party and will take any opportunity to smear a Republican. I'm just surprised that they didn't object to Santorum's basic premise that it's reasonable to expect anyone to actually earn a living–mostly, the Dems seem to think that giving away other peoples' money is a fine thing to do.

    January 5, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  11. KH

    How do people mangle this into stating he OBVIOUSLY was trying to say 'lives' (where is the hard b sound in lives?) OK maybe I could see one person making this statement....but multiple people making the same bogus claim is nothing but campaign orchestrated spin.

    January 5, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  12. T'sah from Virginia

    Herman Cain would have said it for Santorum. And all of the candidates would have hidden behind Cain's word with pride and agree with him. The "Koch-Brother from Another Mother" is not there anymore. So maybe Right-White folks think they can say things like this and get away with it too. Keep in mind, though, Cain did not get away with it either!!!

    Obama 2012

    January 5, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. JohnPA

    He clearly says "I don't want to make thelives people's lives easier" which would have been an ambiguous use of "their lives" instead of "People's lives" and not "black people's lives"

    This is coming from someone who thinks Santorum is a divisive bigot.

    January 5, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    Hey, Ricky ... ( read my lips ) ... me and mine will once again be voting for "that one".

    Obama/Biden 2012

    January 5, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. Sean

    So now there's a B word?? Lol, what's next, don't say the A word

    January 5, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Thomas

    Defending the indefensible. It's the GOP way....

    "I'm sorry, BP... please don't go away!"

    January 5, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  17. Sniffit

    He would have been much better off saying exactly what he was really thinking: nothing.

    January 5, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. Rosslaw

    Santorum is right. I clearly heard him say "frothy", which sounds a lot like black to conservatives.

    January 5, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. Honest

    You may say that "he's calling it how he sees it," but the fact of the matter is, what he's saying is not true. It is old, tired, race-based stereotypes being perpetuated by republicans. I actually support republicans in many of their initiatives because I do believe that encouraging education and providing folks with the tools to help themselves is the best way forward. But you lose me when you start insulting entire ethnic groups. Anyone who wants to know can easily find out that in fact, white Americans are the largest benefactors from welfare programs. No one EVER talks about that, but they throw out the same old "Welfare Queens" trash put forth by Reagan. There is a reason that blacks hate Reagan.

    January 5, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. Paul1st

    Being tongue-tied and blurting out something usually reveals what a person is thinking and who has not had time for the rational spin-doctor in his head to edit the comment to be what he should say and not what he wants to say. In other words, Santorum believes (grossly in error) that blacks receive the majority of welfare payments. His comment taken together with his claim that he has worked closely with multicultural communities merely shows he can work with a demographic segment and not understand their situation. So much for being able to represent all of the people.

    January 5, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  21. GetTheeToaSanitorium

    What he meant to say was "I don't want to help black people." Period.

    January 5, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  22. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Using the words "Black People " isn't a Racial Slur But it is what he said. If Rick Santorum had said I don’t want to make people’s lives better by giving them someone’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” nothing would have been said. But Rick Santorum did target Black People on Welfare or on assistance. But Rick needs to check his facts. There are more White People on Welfare than Black People or other people of Color.

    January 5, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  23. Joseph A Bank

    Time to pack up the sweater vests. This will haunt him. It's time for the classisc dodges. The "I dont recall" or "What I meant to say was" or "It was a long day and I meant to say Flack people because I like Roberta Flack".

    January 5, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  24. Karen

    Blacks are the largest recipients of welfare, this is a fact. Also people that get off welfare & fins jobs in the private sector do much better financially. There's nothing controversial about stating the truth. Some people just don't like to hear it.

    January 5, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  25. Pat in IL

    Not owning up to it is a much worse character flaw than saying it.

    January 5, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
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