In light of Rick Santorum's promise to "vigorously enforce" federal obscenity laws, CNN questioned whether any candidate should even be talking about pornography right now. Host Fredricka Whitfield expressed her disbelief that the subject was even in the news conversation, during Friday's 11 a.m. hour of Newsroom.
Santorum has not made the issue the centerpiece of his campaign, as GOP strategist Ana Navarro pointed out. It is, however, an important matter for social conservatives who make up a strong voting bloc for the candidate.
"Enforcing Laws Against Illegal Pornography" appears at the very bottom of Santorum's "Issues" page of his website, and the candidate simply promises to enforce federal obscenity laws through his Attorney General, cracking down on the illegal distribution of hard-core porn. This was enough for CNN to blare the headline "War on Pornography" three times Friday and bring the matter up for discussion with political panels.
"Should porn, pornography, even be an issue that Santorum or any other candidate at this point should be talking about?" Whitfield asked in mild amazement. Twice more she questioned the candidate's approach to emphasizing the issue, and noted his stinging accusation of President Obama for failing to enforce obscenity laws.
"So, Ana, why wouldn't the Santorum camp look at this as being a real risk?" Whitfield asked Navarro. "And why would he even need to go in this direction?"
A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 16 on Newsroom at 11:31 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, it's time for "Fair Game." Today's topic, pornography. Yeah, you heard me right. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says he is going to go after people who produce and distribute hard-core porn. On his web site he promises to appoint an attorney general who will clean up the internet and cable TV. So at a time when the economy is hurting, is getting rid of porn something that he should be worried about? That question is "Fair Game" today.
WHITFIELD: Should porn, pornography, even be an issue that Santorum or any other candidate at this point should be talking about?
ANA NAVARRO, Republican strategist: I'm not sure it should be an issue at 11:30 in the morning, but look – so Rick Santorum is a social conservative. We know that. He is a conservative. He's a conservative on social issues. He cares about these things as do a lot of social conservatives. I don't think he's saying this is going to be a central focus of his administration.
I think he's saying this is an important issue. And it's an important issue for a lot of social conservatives, which is why Rick Santorum does so well with that niche group. I'm certainly thinking he's not saying we're going to shift resources from DOJ and instead of fighting terrorism, we're fighting, you know, some of the other issues, we're going to be focusing on porn. But presidents can walk and chew gum at the same time, or should be able to. And what he's saying to conservatives is, folks, I'm one of you, this is an issue that worries me, and if I get elected president, it's an issue that's going to be on my agenda.
WHITFIELD: All right, Tara, so Santorum is also saying that the President is doing nothing to prevent pornography. Let me just read a statement from Rick Santorum's website saying, quote, "America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography. The Obama administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography, and has refused to enforce obscenity laws." He goes on to say that the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families. So Tara, those are some pretty powerful words coming from Rick Santorum's website. Might this backfire?
WHITFIELD: So, Ana, why wouldn't the Santorum camp look at this as being a real risk? Here he is enjoying some real victories, you know, after a series of primaries and caucuses. And why would he even need to go in this direction?