UPDATE, 1:03 PM PT: Rick Santorum has responded to the pushback he’s received over comments he made about Native American culture.
In a statement, he said, “I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”
Speaking about the origins of the United States to a conference of the Young America’s Foundation, Santorum said, “We birthed a nation. From nothing. There was nothing here. Yes, we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here, pursuing religious liberty, to practice their faith, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on CNN to drop Santorum as a commentator.
Nihad Awad, its national executive director, said in a statement, “CNN should never again invite Rick Santorum as a commentor after he attempted to whitewash the European genocide of this continent’s indigenous population and to dismiss the significance of Native America culture.”
PREVIOUSLY: CNN commentator Rick Santorum has generated a backlash for comments he made about Native American culture before Europeans arrived.
Speaking to the conservative youth group Young America’s Foundation, Santorum was talking about the origins of the United States and said, “They came here mostly from Europe, and they set up a country that was based on Judeo Christian principles…that is what our founding documents are based on. It’s in our DNA.
“If you think of other countries like Italy and Greece and China and Turkey and places like that, they have all sort of changed over time. They have been there for millennia in many case. And their culture has sort of evolved over time. But not us, we came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation. From nothing. There was nothing here. Yes, we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here, pursuing religious liberty, to practice their faith, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty. Those are the two bulwarks of America.”
His remarks drew quick condemnation, even from other conservatives. The View co-host Meghan McCain tweeted that Santorum “has always been an absolute asshole – this is so ignorant and dangerous. I was raised learning, respecting and appreciating Native American culture in Arizona, specifically Hopi and Navajo. So much so that a Navajo flutist and drummer performed at my dads funeral.”
“This is an absolute nightmare. Just appalling beyond words,” wrote Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Soledad O’Brien, a former CNN host, linked to the video with the message, “(CNN employee’s overt racism and ignorance.)”
(CNN employee’s overt racism and ignorance.) https://t.co/awZdUGtofE
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) April 26, 2021
W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN’s United Shades of America, wrote, “@ricksantorum, a white supremacist, white nationalist, racist, xenophobic sentient wet bag of garbage – sneaks in a mention to Birth of a Nation, a film where the KKK are”heroes”, & he yada yadas genocide of the Indigenous people of this land. & he’s a ‘reasonable Republican.'”
Kathy Griffin wrote, “But I’m the one who got fired by CNN.” Griffin had co-hosted CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper, but was dropped in 2017 after she posted a picture of herself holding a fake severed head of President Donald Trump.
But I’m the one who got fired by CNN. 🤷♀️ https://t.co/CM4QdNwFtG
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) April 26, 2021
A CNN spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. Nor did representatives from Santorum’s group Patriot Voices.