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. doc

    He said it!

    January 5, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. Tad Pole

    I hate it when they say something stupid, and then instead of just admitting they made a mistake, they try to make it seem like EVERYONE ELSE is somehow wrong.

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

    I and my family will be voting for "that one".

    Obama/Biden 2012 Warren 2016

    January 5, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  4. GI Joe

    I know two people on welfare - they are both white, and they are both republican They are waiting for their "trickle down" to come gushing in

    January 5, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Hasn't anyone noticed the question that he was asked?

    January 5, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. MEG in PA

    He said "black." Don't kid yourself...

    Plain and simple – Rick Santorum is the most divisive, closed-minded politician you will ever encounter. His goal is to impose his religious ideology on this country, and only people who think like him are worthy of consideration. I am from his home district, and we are all better off with him OUT of office!

    January 5, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. Expat American

    There are plenty of ‘white’ people on welfare..in fact, there are probably more people on welfare who are ‘white’ than any other demographic group… and Republicans don’t care for much for them either…even those who continue to vote Republican…for some odd reason.

    January 5, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. paul

    Why is anyone surprised by this? He fits right in to the Republican philosophy. If you lose your job then you are lazy and no good. Just go find a job–like the 1% that the Republicans support.

    January 5, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  9. Harry

    Since when is it racist to refer to a black guy as a black guy? Way overboard on a PC bullcr@p IMHO. I don't see the big deal here. I'm a Democrat also.

    January 5, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. unclecoldcrush

    Poor Ricky!! He most definitely said black and it looks so much worse to lie about it later!! I am an African American and trust me we all know that there are plenty of poor people (black, white, asian, hispanic) on fed assistance, but to single out one group is unforgivable for a potential presidential candidate.

    January 5, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. anonymous010

    I watched it. He definitely said black – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    January 5, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. Independent Voters

    Santorum I was listening to a radio station this morning and majority of people was saying that you said black. The listeners was very offended that you said black and compare them with welfare. This got to stop we all are american and people are suffering so santorum have you ever been on welfare. Santorum you must dont know what it like to see poor kids not having nothing to eat or dont have a place to live in or sleep.

    January 5, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  13. jaintn

    The only thing worse than saying what everyone knows he said is denying he said it. Santorum is in deep doo doo. He might even lose the ultra conservative right wing black vote.

    January 5, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. toxictown

    He said "black". He half catches himself and then you can even see as the video moves on that he gets distracted and is thinking to himself "damn, how do I get out of this..."

    January 5, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. Woman In California

    @ GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    I agree with you on the term African American which I have always found offensive. I have never been to Africa and could care less if I go but I am a black American period.

    January 5, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  16. Tim

    While I can give Ricky a pass on whether or not he said "black", the most telling feature of the video is the reaction of the African American sound technician when he hears the word Ricky stutters on. From his reaction, Ricky obviously used a word that caught his attention and he was definitely surprised by it. He is there for one purpose and one purpose only; to make sure that the microphone picks up every word Santorum says, listening in on a nice set of headphones, and he definitely has a very different look on his face when Ricky says black or something that sounds very much like it. It really is old news though. Rick has said far more racist things than this. I am sure Romney will remind us of that fact in the next few days. So sad to see Republicans eat their own and spit them out.

    January 5, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. ZoeyKay

    It's funny to see how he "slips" (yeah, right) and makes a racist remark, and then spends the next few days trying to back-peddle. It's like the person who says they aren't racist, because they have 1 Black friend.

    January 5, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. sr

    I listened to the tape four times, and he clearly uttered the word 'black.' Would he equally oppose giving white folks in welfare more money to make 'their life better' or did he not want to say it in a room full of white folks, especially when he was trying to get their votes? I liked his idea of giving people opportunity to earn more money for betterment, but singling out a race to make his point is really cheap.

    January 5, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Who

    He doesn't even get what he said wrong! If instead of 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.” But said instead had said " I don’t want to make people who are out of work lives better by giving them someone’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
    That line would have been OK if he had said it for people in general....but "black" people?!?!? Tongue-tied, nothing! He is an out and out racist!! I'm not black and I see that!

    January 5, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. Gino

    Brain-tied is more like it.

    January 5, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. keith

    oh yes senator you said exactly what has been reported. In fact I was appalled and schocked that it was said and particularily by a candidate running for president of the United States. I feel very strongly that Rick owes the African American community an apology. Otherwise you don't deserve to be leader of the free world.

    January 5, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. Dustin

    The transcript of his speech says this “I don’t want to make lives, people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

    Listen to it again. Listen to how he says "lives" when he says "peoples lives" and compare that to the transcript above. Tommy Christopher from Mediaite even gives him the benefit of the doubt.

    January 5, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Mark8000

    It sounds like he started to say 'Black" but stopped in the middle. Its sounds like "bla...". The conservative stereotype is that all welfare/food stamp recipients are either black or illegal immigrants. I'm sure if Rick didn't say "black" his audience filled in the blank for him. Remember Saint Ronald Reagan used to talk about 'welfare queens' in Chicago driving Cadillacs down the streets of Chicago.

    January 5, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Katie

    He SAID BLACK-All Day Long baby! And for those of you making excuses for this big dummy, get some earphones and plug it in your computer! He didn't say blah, blank, uh, but 'BLACK! He helped HBCU's right!

    January 5, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  25. Eli

    We all struggle with some level of prejudice and obviously Santorum is no different. I think this is great that we all know what he feels deep down before it's too late.

    "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks."

    January 5, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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