Media Question Whether Santorum's Comments In CNSNews.com Interview Are Racist

In an interview with CNSNews.com last week, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) referenced President Obama's African-American heritage last week and "found it remarkable" that he could be pro-abortion. Santorum, later clarifying his comments under media scrutiny, said he meant he is dismayed that a President who "rightfully" fights for civil rights ignores the civil rights of the unborn in America.

Santorum, speaking of President Obama's position on abortion, said in the interview "the question is--and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer--is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life, is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, no, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people."

The media picked up on the comment and, without publishing what Santorum said leading up to the segment, questioned if he had racial motivations. Jennifer Epstein's Politico piece was headlined "Rick Santorum plays race card on President Obama." Epstein labeled Santorum's remark "eyebrow-raising."
 

USA Today reported "Ex-Senator Ties Obama's Race to Abortion Rights." New York Magazine's piece was titled "Rick Santorum Can't Believe Obama Doesn't Know Exactly When Life Begins, Because He's Black."

Other sources picked up the piece, such as Slate, the Washington Post, the Daily Caller, the Huffington Post, National Journal, MSNBC.com, and ABCNews.com. NBC correspondent Norah O'Donnell ran the clip of Santorum's comment on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" and asked her guests to comment.

The former senator was being interviewed by Terry Jeffrey, who edits CNSNews.com, a division of NewsBusters's parent company the Media Research Center.

Jeffrey quoted Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter From the Birmingham Jail," that just laws are those in conformity with natural law. He asked Santorum if he agreed.

"Absolutely," Santorum replied. "I quoted it in my speech."

Jeffrey then asked if natural law principles apply to the controversy over when an unborn child should receive the right to life. "Every person, every child conceived in the womb has a right to life from the moment of conception," Santorum answered. He pointed to the absurdity of President Obama being unable to answer the basic question because it is "above [his] pay grade."

Bob Parks, senior video producer at the Media Research Center, produced and edited the interview between Santorum and Jeffrey. Parks responded on his blog "Black and Right" that President Obama should be able to address the issue of abortion.

"Maybe [Epstein] should do a little research and look up the Negro Project, how liberal icon Margaret Sanger targeted blacks for extermination with Planned Parenthood, and how wonderful it was that almost 60% of black babies were aborted last year in New York City alone," Parks wrote.

"Barack Obama should be able to say something about this specifically," he added.

A transcript of the segment of the interview between Santorum and Jeffrey is as follows:

TERRY JEFFREY, Editor-in-Chief, CNSNews: Dr. Martin Luther King, when he was thrown in the Birmingham jail--

Fmr. Pennsylvania Sen. RICK SANTORUM: I quoted it in my speech! Yeah.

JEFFREY: In 1963, on Good Friday, wrote his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” And in that he cited two Roman Catholic saints, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, saying that a just law is a law that comports with the natural law or the law of God and an unjust law is one that doesn't, and the reason that the segregation laws of the South were unjust is because they violated the natural God-given law. Do you agree with Martin Luther King?

SANTORUM: Absolutely. I quoted it in my speech. In fact, I read the entire quote. And I believe--the call in my speech was for what Madison referred to as the perfect remedy. In essence what freedom of conscience is all about, what you are talking about is all about, is how do we live with our differences? If you think about it, America is unique in the sense that we have people coming from very disparate backgrounds, very different points of view, and yet we have a equanimity here in America. We always figure out a way to sort of work things out in America. Why? Why does someone from Serbia and someone from Croatia--that if they lived in the Balkans would be at each others throats--move next door to each other in Cleveland and are on the PTA together and get along. How does that work? Well it works because America is different. It's Madison perfect remedy, which is a vibrant, active, inclusive public square. Everybody's allowed in. People of faith, people of non-faith, and you can make your claims, you can argue your point, and then you can let the discourse decide. You don't have the elite, the planners, the smart people saying, no, this is how we are going to do things. And if the sacred law and secular the law don't match up--as the Supreme Court has done now on numerous occasions, whether its marriage or abortion, or a whole host of other issues--they've sort of pulled that discussion, that perfect remedy, and pulled the plug on it, and said, no, we're going to impose our remedy, an imperfect one, based upon the elites of our culture.

JEFFREY: All right, let's talk in specific terms about how this natural God-given law that is at the foundation of our country plays into current concrete issues. We asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--I think I mentioned it to you earlier--this past summer whether she believed Jesus had a right to life from the moment of conception. What's your--Did Jesus have a right to life from the moment of conception?

SANTORUM: Every person, every child conceived in the womb has a right to life from the moment of conception. Why? Because they are human, genetically human, at the moment of conception. They have the same genetic composition as you and I do from that moment on. And it's alive. So it is human, by genetic, and it is alive, so it's a human life. So the question is, not whether this is a human life. When Barack Obama is asked, you know, is a child in the womb a human life? 'Oh, well, that's above my pay grade.' Just about everything else in the world he's willing to do, to have the government do, but he can't answer that basic question, which is not a debatable issue at all. I don't think you'll find a biologist in the world who will say that that is not a human life. The question is--and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer--is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life, is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, no, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.

 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014