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. Rich

    Rick looks alot like Lee Harvey Oswald...

    January 5, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. HENDERWAY

    @ Kevin: How many "blank people" do you know? I've watched it several times also and lets face it, HE SAID BLACK PEOPLE. If this is the way he wants to get started on the national stage, I can only imagine what else he has up his sleeve. So, lets see, he's against equal rights for gays, and now he believes that only black people get public assistance. What will he do when he visits a poor back woods town, come out in black face makeup? ENOUGH ALREADY SANTORUM. Apologize. All the "work you've done with African-Americans" was just wiped out by the truth in your heart, that accidentally "stumbled out of your mouth".

    January 5, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  3. MiketheElectrician

    Paul and Brian you hit the nail on the head. Cannot add to near perfect comments.

    January 5, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  4. icecold

    If you don't think he said black people, ask the black guy holding the boom mike what he said. Look at the way he looks up when Santorum says it and the way he cuts his eyes at him the rest of the speech. I mean the guy wasn't even paying attention to santorum until he said black people and then it looks like he wanted to punch him in the back of the head.

    January 5, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  5. Jim

    "He conflates welfare recipients with African-Americans, though federal benefits are in fact determined by income level.”

    I hate to pick nits, but this is an argument of convenience. Mr. Jealous tries to downplay the nexus between race and public assistance because doing so supports the narrative that Santorum is just another mean 'ol racist white Republican. Jealous and his ilk also speak out about the injustices of the criminal justice system. However, they would never say that so-and-so 'conflates criminal records with African-Americans, though guilt for crimes is in fact determined by an impartial jury of the defendant's peers.' Instead, they constantly rail against a criminal justic system that is biased towards blacks. So....either blacks are disproportionately impacted by government (sanctions, programs, actions) or not, but please stop cherry-picking.

    January 5, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Who cares? He won't get the AA vote anyway. Next.

    January 5, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. rob

    You caught yourself in chain of thought and tried to change it. You said what you meant to say and realized the negative implications it would have and "mumbled" halfway through saying it. Don't string around what happened and own it.

    January 5, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  8. Larry L

    I'm shocked! Shocked I say! A Republican with bias against minorities? The next thing we'll see is one of them coming out against the rights of gay people... or maybe some Republican who isn't concerned about our environment.

    January 5, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  9. j.Huggins

    Please listen to the conversation, he clearly said black people, working, welfare, taking and giving other people money to them. My parents, grandparents, great grandparents, have never depended on welfare, they have always worked and provided for their families, this clearly an attack on the (black) African-American community, our community is bigger than just Chester, PA. All the African-American people I know, do not want anyone to give them anything, other than a "fair" chance at an opportunity to contribute to mankind and may a difference in someone's life. "I Am A Man". Open your eyes Herman Cain, and see your running mates for what and who they are.

    January 5, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  10. doc111

    Well, when I first heard it, is sounded like "black" to me and after hearing several more times, it still sounds like "black". This is just a not-so-subtle way of associating people of color with people who are actually using most of the benefits of being a U.S. citizen.

    January 5, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  11. Dave3000

    The good Catholic Boy Rick Santorum on healthcare...“People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don’t go to the emergency room or they don’t go to the doctor when they need to,” he said. “And it’s not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit." ...Another Republican who is a pint short of compassion...Iowa is not a good cross-section of America...Enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame Rick!

    January 5, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  12. Eyeforaneye

    Welcome to the mix good sir...watch what you say and burn any past books you wrote...good luck...believe me, you are going to need it! LOL

    January 5, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  13. GI Joe

    He hasn't checked his facts.

    In IOWA, 80% of the people on welfare are WHITE.

    January 5, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  14. ronnyg

    Um, yeah, he said "black." He hesitated, because he realized as he began to say it that it might not be a great idea. But there was no turning back. Can't figure what reasonable alternative there could be to his saying "black."

    January 5, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. We ALL Know, Mami

    The scariest thing about this guy is that I DO believe that he did not hear himself say it - he really did not. That tells me that this racism is so ingrained in him that he cannot even hear it anymore. It is simply a subconscious part of his being now - blacks are food stamp dependent. Wow. Run away from this guy.

    January 5, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Zack

    Now we know who wrote those news letters for RP.

    Well shame on him for assuming all black people are on welfare. That being said, shame on blacks for thinking all white people have money. shame on the rest of you for not seeing that a larger portion of black people are on welfare as compared to the rest. Do I think its there fault? no. Do I agree with welfare? No! However, until ajoles like Santorum and Romney stop sending american jobs over seas, then we're going to need it. ALL OF US! Its okay that Santorum used the word black but refering to all black people as welfare recipients is disgusting. Americans want to work! White, black, brown, and yellow, we want to prosper. Its not going to happen under Obama or anyone other than RP, start doing your homework america.

    January 5, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. hillcrester

    What else could he possibly have meant to say, given the context of that sentence? Did he "mean" to say "poor" but his unconscous betrayed him?

    I don't think it is particularly relevant–most of us have some racist thoughts buried inside–but it may show how his inexperience in moments like that will cause him trouble.

    January 5, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. basketcase

    So, Rick, what you're saying is, you were going to say black people, realized at the last second it would be a bad idea to say that, and mumbled something that sounded kind of like black. That isn't really any better.

    January 5, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. Therealme

    "Why is being politically correct so important nowadays? He called it like he saw it." – Nancy

    In this case, people are simply expecting political figures to not hold opinions based upon prejudice. What is prejudice? Prejudice is to prejudge something. I expect my leaders to have opinions founded upon reasonable information and not prejudice. Apparently we differ in this regard.

    Anyone with basic research skills can look at the existing data on welfare and see his opinion is flawed. As pointed out in the article.

    January 5, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  20. Tex71

    Once again, a Republican provides evidence that conservatives want you to believe that poverty is the result of laziness as opposed to a system that disenfranchises the working class. The laziest, least productive people in this country are not the poor; they are the wealthy ones who spend all their time lying around on the back of a yacht or sitting around being waited on hand and foot at the country club.

    January 5, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  21. roldoc

    I am shocked at the number of posts,well intentioned I suppose,that would like the rest of us to believe that Mr. Santorum did not say "black people's lives",when in fact that is what he said.

    January 5, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Ed Killer

    Really, this is an issue? The word "black" is used all the time on TV, and other media. Guess what, everyone says it. It's one syllable, not seven, like African American. I can't stand Santorum, but this is all you can dig up on this guy?

    It's like with Southpark, the guys make fun of everything, depriving taboos of their power, allowing for topical discussion without a negative stigma. To empower an adjective like "black" only makes the issue worse, and confuses non black people because they have no idea what word can be used to describe a black person.

    January 5, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. wfhutchi

    I was taught, if I said something stupid, wrong, incorrect, hurtful, or out of ignorance, I should apologize, examine myself as to why I made the statement, and endeavor not to say it again.. Trying to do otherwise, does nothing but makes what I said worst.

    January 5, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. mb2010a

    One more down the tubes...four or five more to go. He definitely said "Black people" and there is no two ways about it...Obama 2012.

    January 5, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. DIANA

    It sounded like he said black but stumbled when he said it, (like he was trying to say a lot but decided on staying with his original word). He might have meant to say something else but he probably said what he was actually thinking.

    January 5, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
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