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. brian

    This should be an eye opening moment for people, he could not stop his tongue from saying what his brain was actually thinking, to lie is an intentional process the mind must focus on, the truth however is just a repeating of data that is actually stored in our minds..............watch this guy lie, lie, lie

    January 5, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. Paul

    Well, Mr.Santorum has a serious problem. I heard the word "black" clearly in the speech and for him to deny that he said what he said means only two things:
    a) He is a blatant liar or
    b) his ears cannot hear what his mouth says.
    Either condition makes him ineligible to be our Commander in Chief.
    Probably he is so conditioned to his discriminatory thinking that he does not recognize it any more in his speech.

    January 5, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Dean wrote:

    What's the issue...Santorum is correct. African-Americans are statistically (as a percentage) the largest recipient group of welfare benefits.
    -------------
    This is typical of what is wrong in this country. Blame black Americans for everything. CBS, who first reported this story, reports that only 9% of the welfare recipients in the state of Iowa are black, while 84% are white. Nationwide, the majority of welfare recipients, 70%, are white Americans. Who said that the election of a black American as POTUS signified a "post racial society" in America?

    January 5, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. Seattle Sue

    Why doesn't the nitwit just view the tape? That would be the best thing to do and then if he didn't say black then he can just stammer some more.

    January 5, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  5. Independent Voters

    Santorum is a racist we dont need a president who put down african american. By the way Santorum it more white people on welfare then black. Santorum do you know social secuirty is welfare also guess how many white receive social secuirty.

    January 5, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  6. Honest

    Black people are not, based on a percentage, the largest recipients of welfare. That would be saying that at least 50 percent of the people in this country receiving welfare are black and that is NOT true. The bottom line is this, which group is receiving the most money from welfare programs? The answer is whites.

    January 5, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. KH

    "I am no Santorum supporter, but...."

    is a key phrase in spin doctoring

    January 5, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  8. tom

    Fact is, there are more whites below poverty line in sheer numbers. There are more blacks than any other race below poverty line as a percentage. The bottom line is that work/jobs get you out of the welfare program cycle. Teaching kids to work hard is the most important tool. Newt was on to something about giving kids work after school. Unfortunately many parents allow their kids to watch tv and play video games porportionately way more than chores. I'm guilty of this with my son and he is struggling. I am above the poverty line but I have done a poor job in teaching my son to work and now in hindsight I have spoiled him.

    January 5, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  9. Bob

    Own it, Rickie boy, you said, deal with it.

    January 5, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  10. John

    All Republican are Racist and feel with hatred and are Bigot. Why did you think why they been trying to get rid of President Obama since day One. It had nothing to do with what he did,even that he got the Economy Is Improving and the stock market Is back to where It was. The what to get rid of him because of the color of his skin.

    January 5, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. John in Brooklyn

    It was "black". CNN...stop giving Santoruma "pass" on his positions and statements that are clearly out of step with msot Americans.

    January 5, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. Michael

    Comon ricky.. dont mess this up too early! We need to to give Romney a good run for his money as long as possible so the republican nominating process is as messed up as long as possible. THEN you can self destruct as America sees how racist and bigoted and royally messed up in the head you really are. Pacing is everything.

    January 5, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  13. Bob

    "Karen – Blacks are the largest recipients of welfare, this is a fact."

    That is utter right wing garbage.

    January 5, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. tom

    I was at a construction meeting that had minority participation goals. A local represenative said we want to know how many blacks you are going to have not hispanics on your participation forms.

    January 5, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Henry Miller wrote:

    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.
    ---------------–
    It is politically incorrect when your statements are factually incorrect. 84% of welfare recipients in Iowa are white, only 8% are black. 70% of all welfare recipients in this country are white. Black Americans comprise less than 15% of the population in this country, and typically have double the unemployment rate of white Americans in most regions.

    I guess it never occured to you that black Americans are smarter voters. They are an electorate who consistently vote in *their* best interests. Most of the current Republican field has had their share of racial controversy, including the black guy. Perry had his rock. Cain was brainwashed. Santorum has this remark, and others. Gingrich thinks black kids need to be janitors. Ron Paul was keynote speaker for the John Birch Society. Did I miss anyone?

    January 5, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  16. kevin

    Unless you were born in Africa you are not an African-American, your an American.

    January 5, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  17. onehappyguy

    An unfortunate remark that will be very difficult to overcome. These types of slips can ruin a campaign. If he would have just stuck by his comment, and admited he used the word "black," and went in to how their is a moral obligation this country has to lift all Americans out of poverty, including blacks, not by handing them money others have earned, but by creating more jobs so people can take care of themselves, this would be over as a story.

    January 5, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  18. Independent Voters

    Santorum you said the word black out clear and I heard it on CNN

    January 5, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  19. Nina

    It is clearly obvious he said "black". The difinition of a politician in the dictionary chould "LAIR".

    January 5, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. mary

    You know, I listened to the tape, with an open mind, because I just didn't think anyone could something that dumb. But yeah, he said it. Clear as a bell. His campaign had better work up a better response than"he stumbled". that is not going to wash.

    January 5, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Gosh, I'll say it again: why are we still surprised?
    The Newtered and his boy janitors, The N-Stone Perry, The Head, 1950's You-Can't-Come-In Paul, Batty and her Slave-Free Floundering Fathers.
    Come on now.
    They are exactly what they appear to be.

    January 5, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. Mike

    I'm black. I'll take a welfare check to go with my 6 figure salary. Damn you Rick. You are ruining my hustle.

    January 5, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  23. Michael

    OH btw @Karen and Rudy above... do you REALLY think that blacks make up a greater % of welfare recipients because they WANT to be poor? REALLY? Its that great?! You might want to do some research on dominant power groups, economic mobility, and racial economic injustice.

    January 5, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  24. Jeff--Tacoma WA

    Who would have guessed Rick Santorium was a Racist? Anyone with an IQ over 80?

    January 5, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  25. Rich

    You said black Rick...Only the born again morons will believe you.

    January 5, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
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