On Friday's CBS This Morning, Rick Santorum pushed back against Charlie Rose's interrogation about supporter Foster Friess's recent "bad off-color joke" on contraception, all but name-dropping former Obama pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as an example of the media's double standard on playing "gotcha" politics with Republicans, but not Democrats.
Rose initially countered, "This is not gotcha; what this is, is trying to understand exactly what Rick Santorum stands for, and what he might say or do as president." But the GOP presidential candidate wasn't having any of it: "You don't do this with President Obama...he sat in a church for 20 years, and [you] defended him- that, oh, he can't possibly believe what he listened to for 20 years. It's a double standard...and I'm going to call you on it" [audio available here; video below the jump].
CBS's Big Three counterparts - ABC and NBC - also spotlighted the Friess controversy. On Thursday's World News, ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl claimed that the backer's joke was "consistent with Santorum's Catholic faith, but also a reminder of just how far to the right he is on social issues, even once comparing homosexuality to bestiality." The same evening, on NBC Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell that Friess "veered into volatile territory" with the joke that "caught fire."
The following morning, on Friday's Today show, anchor Savannah Guthrie trumpeted that Republicans "stepped into it a little bit" on the wider debate over controversy over contraception and the federal government's mandate for it, and that the remark "raised a lot of eyebrows." Guthrie then asked colleague David Gregory, "Does this illustrate how quickly this whole issue can get off course?" Gregory replied, in part, that "a lot of strategists...think that this is a real straitjacket for the party come general election time, whoever the nominee is, even if the elements of the base right now are energized by the issue."
Rose led his interview of the former Pennsylvania senator with the controversy over Friess's remark. He asked, "What have you said to him about the comments, other than what you have said to the press?" Santorum retorted by immediately accusing the journalist of playing "gotcha":
SANTORUM: I'm not responsible for every comment that a supporter of mine makes...it was a bad joke. It was a stupid joke. It's not reflective of me or my record on this issue....this is the same gotcha politics that you get from the media, and I'm just not going to play that game.
The anchor continued by pursuing the issue with his guest, which led to a back and forth between the two, and ultimately concluded with the Republican firing back with the Rev. Wright example:
ROSE: There's no question that those issues are very important, and they're very important to the voters of Michigan. But also, you have been identified as a social conservative, and those issues have been part of what you have said to the country. So this is not gotcha. What this is, is trying to understand exactly what Rick Santorum stands for, and what he might say or do as president-
SANTORUM: Well, Charlie, when you quote- hold on, Charlie. When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad off-color joke, and somehow, I'm responsible for that shall, that's gotcha. I mean, the bottom line is, we're- we've been- we've been-
ROSE: But nobody said you were responsible, Senator. Nobody said you were responsible. They said, how would you characterize it and what have you said to him, not that you were responsible. It's to understand how you differ from what this person said. So let me quote you-
SANTORUM: Okay. So I'm now going to have respond to every supporter who says something. Now, I'm going to have to respond to it. Look, this is what you guys do. I mean, I don't- you don't do this with President Obama. In fact, with President Obama, what you did was you went out and defended him against someone who- he sat in a church for- for 20 years, and defended him- that, oh, he can't possibly believe what he listened to for 20 years. It's a double standard, this is what you're pulling off, and I'm going to call you on it.
Even after this exchange, Rose wasn't finished with the subject, and read a past quote from the former senator on the issue of birth control. In reply, Santorum defended his record:
SANTORUM: Well, my beliefs are that, as I said, my public policy beliefs are that this contraception should be available. Again, I've supported Title X [Ten] funding. I've also supported abstinence-based education, because I believe that is a healthier alternative. I've been a very strong promoter of that. I think that pre-marital sex, and particularly, sex for- with young girls is a very dangerous and at-risk behavior. I'm not alone on that. The President even supports policies to try to make sure that folks do not have sex outside of marriage and at-risk teens [who] get involved- in that at-risk behavior, that leads to sexually-transmitted diseases; unwanted pregnancies; you know, abortions, and a whole laundry list of other things. So, no, I do stand behind the idea that abstinence is the best alternative, and I've supported that with a program called Title XX [Twenty] within the government.