Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have a "disposition of anti-immigrant," sounded CNN guest and liberal Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill on Friday's Starting Point.
"[W]hen I hear Rick Santorum talking, when I hear Mitt Romney talk, I hear a disposition of anti-immigrant. I hear a language of English as the language of imperialism and global dominance," Lamont Hill said. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
The panel was discussing Santorum's remarks that Puerto Rico would have to speak English in addition to Spanish to earn statehood, and Mitt Romney's reply that English is "the language of opportunity" and that proficiency should be encouraged there.
CNN host Soledad O'Brien did not refute Lamont Hill's statement, but drew comparisons between Santorum's comment and a racist chant at an NCAA basketball game directed at a Puerto Rican player. Both stories, she said, were about "people not understanding what it means to be from Puerto Rico, right?"
She did acknowledged that the fans were being "horrifically awful" to the player and it was clearly the worse of the two remarks.
Conservative columnist Will Cain was clearly exasperated with Lamont Hill's statement, and the comparison between the two stories. He said of the Santorum story "the conversation over language, was not one about xenophobia and what some people take to racism." He added that the racist chant was "much more legitimately about that."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on Starting Point on March 16 at 7:30 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And by the way, Angel Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico, right. Because he doesn't need a green card! He is an American!
WILL CAIN, CNN contributor: I got to tell you I don't like this juxtaposition of this story following one we just did, because what I don't want to happen –
O'BRIEN: Totally unintentional, by the way.
CAIN: Totally unintentional with my music as the kind of tying bond –
O'BRIEN: Also unintentional.
CAIN: Because, again, the last segment we did, the conversation over language, was not one about xenophobia and what some people take to racism. And this story that we're doing right now is much more legitimately about that.
O'BRIEN: Or you could argue this story is also in part people not understanding what it means to be from Puerto Rico, right? No, truly, I mean, like green card –
CAIN: I don't think they knew –
O'BRIEN: Well they're also being or horrifically awful to a young man who's a freshman, who's trying to throw a free throw – trying to shoot a free throw. But at the end of the day you don't need a green card people, and I think that part of what's going on in that earlier debate is not understanding sort of the dynamics of Puerto Rico as candidates – I mean, your dad he's on the campaign trail. How does it work? Do people just hand you research?
ABBY LIVINGSTON, daughter of former Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman: All the time. You know, you really see a difference in the candidates that do their research before they go and do interviews like Santorum did in Puerto Rico. But at the end of the day, he wanting 20 delegate votes, or 30, whatever it is there.
O'BRIEN: I think it's 20, 23 ultimately.
MARC LAMONT HILL, professor, Columbia University: 23. Yeah.
LIVINGSTON: And at the end of the day, if you're going to be the President of the United States you need to understand the people. You need to understand the issues. And I think this really brings to fruition just how unfortunate this situation is. That they don't do their research, they don't know some of the biggest issues out there.
O'BRIEN: How exhausted was your dad?
LIVINGSTON: Never, we never –
LIVINGSTON: It's very exhausting.
O'BRIEN: I just always wondered, you know, is some of that just at some point you're just physically exhausted.
LIVINGSTON: That's why it's so important to have someone who has just the basic understanding of some of these issues. You know?
O'BRIEN: That should be the entry bar, right? The basic understanding.
LAMONT HILL: It's not just the nuances of the facts. It's also a general disposition that people have toward race and ethnicity and things like that. Because when I hear Rick Santorum talking, when I hear Mitt Romney talk, I hear a disposition of anti-immigrant. I hear a language of English as the language of imperialism and global dominance.
CAIN: No, no, no, no. Mark –
O'BRIEN: And certainly shouting "Where's your green card?" is part of that.