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Santorum on comments about Native American culture: 'I misspoke'

The Hill logo The Hill 5/4/2021 Joseph Choi
Rick Santorum wearing a suit and tie: Santorum on comments about Native American culture: 'I misspoke' © Greg Nash Santorum on comments about Native American culture: 'I misspoke'

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in an interview late Monday said he "misspoke" during recent remarks dismissing the influence of Native American culture on the U.S.

Santorum, a senior political commentator at CNN, appeared on the network to discuss the comments, which sparked criticism late last month.

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

"Just to be clear, what I was not saying was that Native American culture - I misspoke," Santorum said. "What I was talking about is, as you can see from the runup, 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."

"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," Santorum added. "The way we treated Native Americans was horrific."

Santorum received widespread backlash after speaking at a conference hosted by the Young America's Foundation. In his remarks, he said: "We birthed a nation from nothing; I mean, there's nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans but candidly, there isn't much Native American culture in American culture."

Soon after these remarks were made, many online viewers called for Santorum to be removed from his position at CNN. In a statement to The Hill shortly after, Santorum said he had "no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture."

Following Santorum's interview with Cuomo, fellow CNN host Don Lemon expressed his displeasure with the former senator's latest comments.

"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, didn't talk about, you know, the suffering that Native Americans have had to deal with in this country," Lemon said. "Did he actually think it was a good idea for him to come on television and try to whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed?"

"I apologize to the viewers who were insulted by this, because I was sitting in my office, furious, because he's done it so many times," Lemon added, calling Santorum's remarks "egregious and insulting."

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