Santorum: I've Done More For Black Communities Than Any Republican In Recent Memory

January 10, 2012 11:00 am ET — Kate Conway

Rick Santorum

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum found himself in hot water recently over reports that he had made a rather unsavory comment linking black people to food stamps. The former Pennsylvania senator denies he said the word "black," explaining that his utterance was the unfortunate result of tripping over his words, but the way he chose to defend his record on race relations at a campaign stop yesterday was nearly as problematic as the comment he was trying to deny.

From the New York Times:

On Monday, at a stop at Mary Ann's Diner here, he was asked by a reporter if he had been unfair to black people.

"Oh that's just absurd," he said testily, as a mob of reporters surrounded him. "First off, I didn't say the word black. I got my tongue tied. You guys are making — look at my track record, look at what I've done for opportunity and helping people. Look at my record of employment, look at my record of working in the community. You guys, you guys — it's really sad that you are bringing this up. It's just sad news. I've done more in the African-American communities as a Republican than any Republican in recent memory."

Although boasting about the grand things one has done for "the African-American communities" is nearly as empty a defense as the "I-have-a-black-friend" line, there's something to be said for the fact that Santorum at least recognizes that the type of comment he's accused of making is distasteful.

The same can't be said of fellow candidate Newt Gingrich, who recently told a town hall in New Hampshire that he'd like to "go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps." Having mysteriously escaped the widespread public censure Santorum has faced, Gingrich hasn't found it necessary to deny, excuse, or apologize for his remarks.

Taking into account Rep. Ron Paul's (R-TX) struggle to defend racist newsletters that went out under his name in the 1980s and the racially charged name of Gov. Rick Perry's (R-TX) family hunting camp, perhaps there's a grain of sincerity in Santorum's comment. At least, that's the unintentional implication of Santorum's statement — that the Republican Party has set such a low bar on outreach to African-American constituents that even he, known for his "values  voters" moralizing and little else, indisputably has the best record on race relations among his party.

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