Rick Santorum protested for months that he couldn't get any media attention, but now that he's earned it with a near-tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses, he's learning attention isn't always so much fun. (The other Not Mitt Romney candidates who came and went before him experienced the same thing.) Reporters are digging up his controversial comments that got little attention days before the vote but now are news. The candidate told voters Sunday, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money." The NAACP is condemning Santorum for using "old race-based stereotypes about public assistance," and despite video evidence to the contrary, Santorum told CNN he didn't mean to say "black."
This isn't the first time in this presidential campaign that Santorum has said some weird things about black people. A year ago, Santorum said President Obama should be pro-life because he's black. Did Santorum mean black people are more socially conservative than whites? Nope. He was referring to slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise. He explained, "I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'No, we're going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"
The strange thing is, Santorum says stuff like this not to stir up racist sentiment, but to try to win over blacks. In 2005, Michael Sokolove explained in The New York Times Magazine that, like the Republican Party when led by George W. Bush, Santorum has long tried to grab "'values'' voters in the heart of what has long been considered safe Democratic territory." Sokolove says Santorum was "something of a trailblazer in this regard," getting endorsements of Philadelphia's biggest black newspaper when he was a senator, as well as the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
Sokolove's article illuminates another aspect of Santorum's welfare comments. He wrote that Santorum has a way of saying things that look pretty weird in print -- like that George W. Bush was "the first Catholic president" even though he was Methodist and there had already been a real Catholic president -- and instead of backing off, he elaborates. That's what's happening today with Santorum's infamous comment comparing homosexuality to "man on dog."
In response to a question about gay marriage in 2003, Santorum said, "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.” Wednesday night, Santorum said he never said they were alike, as New York's Dan Amira points out. He told CNN's John King that when he said "not" -- "It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog" -- he meant that homosexuality was not like man on dog. For seven years, everyone else has interpreted the comment to mean that homosexual relationships were not like marriage.
The funny thing is, in August, Santorum took the interpretation the rest of have had all these years in an interview with CNN in August.
“And the quote that I have been, quote, ‘criticized’ for was almost identical to a quote in a 1980 Supreme Court case where the majority decision basically said what I said… that if the Supreme Court establishes a right to consensual sexual activity, then it’s hard to draw the line between what sexual activity will be permitted under the Constitution and it leaves open a long list of consensual activities that most people I think would find rather unappealing.”
“And so, that’s what I said. I stand by the comment.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.