Anderson Cooper Bashes Santorum by Recycling Supposedly Racial Remark

On the campaign trail, Republican candidate Rick Santorum blurted out a word that sounded like "black" and was widely-criticized for making a generalization that black citizens rely on welfare. Though the transcript of the remark is not entirely certain, CNN's Anderson Cooper emphasized the comment anyway with a "Keeping Them Honest" report on his Thursday show.

The title "Keeping Them Honest" implies that the subject is being dishonest, but Cooper admitted that he was grilling Santorum for "what he appears to be saying."

Santorum, talking about Medicaid and the growing number of people receiving entitlements, stated that "I don't want to make (Unintelligible) 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 disputed word is said by some to sound like "blah," but others claim he said "black," as in "black people."

On the previous day's show, correspondent Gary Tuchman included the clip with a series of controversial remarks that insinuated Santorum was a racist and a homophobe.

Cooper played the clip once, aired Santorum's first response, and then played a longer clip to provide context. After airing Santorum's next response, where he claimed he didn't recall saying "black," Cooper played the remark again for the third time.

At the segment's end, Cooper cited another comment, this time from candidate Newt Gingrich, that was also "drawing fire."

"And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps," was Gingrich's statement. A controversy erupted at CBS over his referring to the African-Americans as "satisfied" with food stamps.

Cooper, however, did not play the entire clip this time for proper context. Just before that quote, Gingrich had insisted that "there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have foodstamps or paychecks, you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 5 at 8:01 p.m. EST, is as follows:

ANDERSON COOPER: The former Pennsylvania senator speaking tonight at a probably more friendly venue. A "Faith, Family and Freedom" town hall. "Keeping Him Honest," though, in some other recent statements that are really causing controversy, namely because the candidate is denying he even said what he appears to be saying. It happened at a campaign stop in Iowa on Sunday. Listen.

(Video Clip)

SANTORUM: I don't want to make (Unintelligible)  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.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well, the next day, CBS's Scott Pelley asked him about that.

(Video Clip)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: You said that you don't want to make black people's lives better --

SANTORUM: Yeah, I'm still –

PELLEY: – by giving them somebody else's money. Why did you say that?

SANTORUM: I've seen – I've seen that quote. And I haven't seen the context in what that was made. Yesterday, I talked, for example, about a movie called – what was it? "Waiting for Superman," which was about black children. And so I don't know whether if it was in response and I was talking after talking about that, so let me just say, no matter what, I want to make every lives better. I don't want anybody – and I think if you look what I've been saying, I've been pretty clear about my concern for dependency in this country and concern for people not being more dependent on government, whatever their race or ethnicity is.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: That's Rick Santorum, Monday suggesting the problem might have been a lack of context. So to help you decide whether or not he was implying African-Americans are being supported by everyone else, we found a longer version of his remarks. Listen.

(Video Clip)

SANTORUM: It just keeps expanding. I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works at the Department of Public Welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program. They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is. 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.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Seems clear the subject is welfare dependency and the dependent people he's talking about are African-American. But now Senator Santorum, after explaining his remarks as if they were in fact racial, isn't saying nope, he wasn't even -- well, he's saying he wasn't even talking about African-Americans, that the word "black" never actually passed his lips. That's what he's saying now. Listen.

(Video Clip)

SANTORUM: I looked at the video and I don't -- in fact, I'm pretty confident I didn't say black. What I think I started to say a word and sort of, bluh –  sort of mumbled it and changed my thought, but I don't -- I don't recall saying black. No one in that audience, no one listening, no reporter there, heard me say that. I think it was – and from everything I see and I've looked at it several times, I was starting to say one word and I sort of came up with a different word and moved on and it – and it sounded like black.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well, the question is, do you buy that? You've already heard it once. And a second time in greater context. I just want to play for you one more time. You can decide for yourself. Listen.

(Video Clip)

SANTORUM: I don't want to make (Unintelligible) 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.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: So decide for yourself. Newt Gingrich is also drawing fire. His remarks from this morning. Listen.

(Video Clip)

NEWT GINGRICH, Republican presidential candidate: And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.

(End Video Clip)

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