GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been trying to pull off an upset in the Iowa caucus, but he’s drawing criticism ahead of tonight’s contest for racially charged remarks he recently made about welfare recipients:
At a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa on Sunday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum singled out blacks as being recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, telling a mostly-white audience he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” [...]
It is unclear why Santorum pinpointed blacks specifically as recipients of federal aid. The original questioner asked “how do we get off this crazy train? We’ve got so much foreign influence in this country now,” adding “where do we go from here?”
It’s hard to say which part of the story is stranger — that Santorum spontaneously derided poor black people in response to a question about foreign money or his explanation of why he did it.
When asked about the comments in a CBS interview, Santorum bizarrely referenced a documentary about the education achievement gap, Waiting for Superman, to explain the context. “Yesterday I talked for example about a movie called, um, what was it? ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which was about black children and so I don’t know whether it was in response and I was talking about that,” he said. The movie actually portrays students of several races.
There had originally been some confusion about whether Santorum actually said the word “black,” which he appeared to clear up in the CBS interview by acknowledging that was in fact the statement he made. (The candidate seemed to think better of his words mid-sentence, so the line comes across garbled.)
CBS points out that only nine percent of Iowans on food stamps are black — and 84 percent are white. Nationally, 39 percent of welfare recipients are white, 37 percent are black, and 17 percent are Hispanic. So Santorum’s decision to single out black welfare recipients plays right into insulting — and inaccurate — stereotypes of the kind of people some voters might expect to want a “handout.”
Attacking families who receive government aid has been a theme among many of the Republican candidates. In nearly every speech, Newt Gingrich accuses President Obama of being a “food stamp president” and even said “really poor children” have bad work habits and no knowledge of how to make an income “unless it’s illegal.” (HT: Raw Story)