Rick Santorum said that he “misspoke” when he told a conservative youth conference that there was “nothing here” at the founding of the United States.
On Monday, Chris Cuomo asked Santorum about the comments, saying that “it seemed like you were trying to erase diversity in the interest of some white Christian right.”
“Just to be clear,” Santorum said, “what I was not saying is that Native American culture…I misspoke…what I was talking about is the founding of the country. I gave a long talk about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and what I was saying is that we sort of created that anew, if you will. I was not trying to dismiss Native Americans. In fact, I mentioned them because they were here and they did have an impact. In fact, in this country you are right, they have a huge impact.”
He said that he was “talking about the founding and the principles embodied in the founding. I would never … the way we treated Native Americans was horrific. It goes against everything I have done and everything I have fought for as a leader in the Congress.”
At the Young America’s Foundation conference last month, 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 video sparked a furor, with criticism online and from some civil rights organizations. Santorum issued a statement saying, “I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”
“Did he actually think it was a good idea for him to come on television and try to whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed? It was horrible and insulting and I apologize to the viewers who were insulted by this.”
Then, Cuomo told Lemon that “you got to do more than just echo the outrage at what he says.”
Lemon responded, “I am not echoing the outrage. I don’t even know about the outrage.”
“Yes, you do. That is where you are wrong,” Cuomo said.
Lemon responded, “I don’t know anything more about this Rick Santorum thing. I don’t know anything about that. I was just sitting and watching that interview and heard bits and pieces of it, and when I saw him, I said, ‘Is he going to apologize?'”
Cuomo then said that he was “not talking about the outrage against Rick Santorum. Our world is not Twitter.”
“This isn’t about Twitter. I don’t care about Twitter. You know that,” Lemon said.
Cuomo said, “Well, that is where the reaction is, and then the media hypes the reaction. What I am saying is…this. I had him on because I wanted people to see what this is. There is no mystery for you guys. …If you just dismiss it, Don, as he’s wrong, that’s not the truth…”
Lemon responded, “But sometimes people are wrong. The whole reason …because we allow them to say it.”
Cuomo said, “No. no. You are not a censor.”
He then denied that he was suggesting that Santorum should be censored. “You are saying I am censoring. I didn’t say censor him…I said I cannot believe that he came on and the first words out of his mouth wasn’t contrition.”