Santorum, Debate Moderator King Feud Over 'Social Issues' Questions

Following Wednesday night's presidential debate on CNN, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took on the deliberate campaign on the part of Democrats and their media enablers to stigmatize him as purely a "social issues" candidate with limited appeal to Americans not as concerned about those topics.

Chatting with CNN analyst Gloria Borger following the GOP candidate contest, Santorum responded to Borger's question that he is "spending way too much time talking about divisive cultural issues" with a full-on rebuttal. "I understand the game," the former Pennsylvania senator said. "I do get these questions [...] and then the next question from the reporter is 'Why are you talking so much about social issues?' Full transcript of the exchange follows.


Full text of the Borger-Santorum exchange:

GLORIA BORGER: What do you say to those Republicans who say that you are spending way too much time talking about divisive cultural issues, that they don't want to get into a culture war and that this would doom you with women voters and, in fact, with independent voters. And you know that some of those voices are coming from pretty high places in Washington.

RICK SANTORUM: Well actually the Gallup poll says we're leading among women and we're doing well. People care about families, people care about what's happening to our society. But I do get these questions, as John King tried to do on contraception and other things that are sort of outrageous types of questions--and then the next question from the reporter is 'Why are you talking so much about social issues?'

So they ask, and then they say, oh but you're talking about social issues all the time. Look, I understand the game, and we're just going to go out and continue and stay on-message about what we're going to do to make this country more prosperous, to build up a strong foundation of our country which clearly is, as I've talked about before, we've gotta do something to strengthen the American family. And I'm going to continue to talk about those things.

Following Santorum's comments, CNN post-debate host Anderson Cooper then turned to King for an after-action interview with candidate Ron Paul. Instead of getting into his Paul conversation, however, King decided to take a shot at Santorum's critique:

JOHN KING: And Anderson, to respond to Senator quickly there, I understand the game as well and I don't think it's out of bounds to ask a presidential candidate about something they said during a presidential campaign. But that's how the process works.

Presumably, King was referring to the Republican candidates' much stronger pushing back on the media this cycle and their attempts to raise awareness of liberal bias on the part of debate moderators.

King's comments tonight echo ones he made earlier in a highly defensive Feb. 18 segment labeled "Keeping Them Honest" segments in which he attacked Santorum and the GOP candidates generally for going after media bias. In that segment, seen below, King derided "gotcha gang" Republicans for "working the ref--in this case, the news media--instead of making the play:"

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013