Santorum To Scarborough: Yeah, You're Pigeonholing Me On Religious Freedom, Contraception!

A rather testy exchange on today's Morning Joe, with co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski going at it with Rick Santorum.  A full five minutes of Santorum's segment were devoted to questioning him on his views on contraception and religious freedom.  

Toward the end, seemingly to Scarborough's surprise, Santorum said that "yeah, sure" he thought Scarborough, like the MSM at large, was attempting to pigeonhole him on the matter.  Video after the jump.



Watch how Mika Brzezinski opens the segment with a question on the subject, with Santorum forced to repeatedly make the point that the issue is not access to contraception, which he has never opposed.  Rather, it is one of religious freedom and the attempt by the Obama administration to force religious institutions to do things that violate their fundamental principles--and the First Amendment in the process.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: First, since you talk about connecting with average, ordinary Americans, some analysits, including some maybe on this set, might have said that you got a tad bit sidetracked on the issue of contraception in a way that doesn't connect not only with members of your party, but across the board. Just totally off-message, off-base in terms of what plagues this country right now. Were members of your team telling you to back off?

RICK SANTORUM: Well, as you know, Mika, the issue was not contraception. The issue was government-mandated health insurance and that to me is completely on-message.

. . .

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Rick, I certainly agreed when we were talking about the Catholic church controversy; I think we're probably on the same side there. But beyond just that I saw a video of an interview you did in Iowa back in the Fall where you said contraception is wrong and other presidential candidates didn't talk about it but you were going to talk about it.  Do you regret saying that, or is that just one of those things that you said on a day that you were--because I know you also have videos where you've said you've voted for Title X.  [Santorum smiles broadly.] You laugh about it--I could give you chapter and verse about it.

SANTORUM: This is all, this is you guys playing, you guys are playing a kind of gotcha politics.

SCARBOROUGH: No.

SANTORUM: I was talking about my own personal faith, and what I was saying is the issue of out-of-wedlock births and what's going on with the destruction of the American family is something I'll talk about, and I have talked about in this campaign.

SCARBOROUGH:  Rick, just so you know, we have been critical, I have been critical of the focus on this issue--contraception.  I brought it up to you today because we've talked about it a lot and certainly now that we have you here, we want you to respond to it. Let's move beyond --

SANTORUM: Look, Joe.  Joe and Mika: hold on one second. Go and come to any of my now almost thousand town hall meetings, and let me assure you, I don't think the word contraception has ever come up, except in the context of this HHS reg.  Let's just deal with reality instead of what the media tries to do, which is to pigeonhole you and tell a narrative.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I've certainly talked about this in the past.  Do you think I--you've known me for a long time--do you think I'm trying to pigeonhole you and stereotype you?

SANTORUM: Well, the fact that you continue to bring it up: yeah, sure!  I don't think about this, Joe. This is not the theme of my campaign!

SCARBOROUGH: I think my record on this in Congress is the same as yours. All I'm saying is, it is a legitimate issue, we brought it up, and I was ready to move on, and you wanted to keep talking about it and said that I was trying to pigeonhole you and stereotype you. I've known you for a long time: I have no reason to be doing that.

SANTORUM:  Joe, the only reason I have talked about this issue, as I said, is with respect to government mandates of people of faith.  That's why this issue continued to be talked about and should continue to be talked about in the context of government forcing people of faith to do things that are against their religious beliefs, something that the federal government has never done and should never do.     

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.