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Rick Santorum Trashed by Don Lemon, Grilled by Chris Cuomo Over Native American Remarks

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/4/2021 Jack Dutton
Don Lemon wearing a suit and tie: CNN anchor Don Lemon attends the WarnerMedia Upfront 2019 arrivals on the red carpet at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 15, 2019 in New York City. Lemon blasted Rick Santorum, a right-wing commentator on the same channel, for not apologising for making offensive remarks about Native American culture on Monday. Hours later, Santorum apologised. © Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Warner Media CNN anchor Don Lemon attends the WarnerMedia Upfront 2019 arrivals on the red carpet at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 15, 2019 in New York City. Lemon blasted Rick Santorum, a right-wing commentator on the same channel, for not apologising for making offensive remarks about Native American culture on Monday. Hours later, Santorum apologised.

Don Lemon blasted his CNN colleague Rick Santorum Monday for not apologizing over offensive remarks about Native American culture. Hours later, Santorum was grilled by Chris Cuomo on the same channel over the incendiary comments, claiming he "misspoke."

Santorum, the former Republican senator for Pennsylvania, made the original comments at the conservative Young America's Foundation on April 26.

"We birthed a nation from nothing," he said. "I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture."

Native Americans and others have since urged CNN to fire Santorum over his comments.

Speaking on his Monday night show, Lemon described Santorum's comments as "horrible and insulting."

"I was furious watching the interview in my office. I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren't: 'I'm sorry I said something ignorant, I need to learn about the history of this country.' No contrition. He didn't talk about the suffering Native Americans have had to deal with in this country."

After accusing Santorum of "whitewashing," Lemon apologized to viewers who were insulted by the pundit's comments, adding that "Europeans did not found this country."

"The native Americans had this country before the Europeans came. Yeah the Europeans conquered this country, they colonied it, but it had nothing to do with the founding of this country," Lemon said.

Presenter Chris Cuomo, who was also on the show, contextualized Santorum's remarks.

"This country is in a crisis that is all about identity," Cuomo said. "And there is a wager being made on the right that they can get enough white people to believe that they are targeted that there's been a perverse culture shift and that they are being replaced. True, no, but it's not about facts, it's about fear."

"I think people already know that," Lemon said.

"If that were true, that party wouldn't be as formidable and the Democrats wouldn't be as vulnerable in the upcoming mid-terms," Cuomo hit back.

That same evening, Cuomo grilled the Santorum over the remarks.

"This seemed like you were trying to erase diversity," Cuomo said, "in the interest of some white Christian right."

Santorum responded: "No, no, no, no, no. Just to be clear, what I was not saying was that Native American culture—I misspoke. What I was talking about is, as you can see from the run-up, I was talking about the founding of our country. I had given a long talk about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the ideas behind those, and that I was saying we sort of created that anew, if you will.

"And I was not trying to dismiss Native Americans. In fact, I mentioned them because, yes, they were here and did have an impact. You're right. They have a huge impact, particularly in the west and many other areas of the country, where they have a huge impact on American culture.

"I was talking about—and I misspoke in this respect—I was talking about the founding and the principles embodied in the founding. I would never—and people said I'm trying to dismiss what we did to the Native Americans, far from it. The way we treated Native Americans was horrific."

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