Rick Santorum responded to CNN’s decision to drop him as a commentator, claiming that he was the victim of the “intolerance of the left.”
“What I said was not at all disparaging of Native Americans,” Santorum told Hannity. “What I was talking about was the founding of the United States of America, and that Native Americans did not have a role in the founding of our country.”
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 backlash, with criticism online and from some civil rights organizations and some groups calling for CNN to fire him. Santorum issued a statement saying, “I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”
He later told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he misspoke. “What I was talking about is the founding of the country,” he said. “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.”
To Hannity, Santorum gave CNN credit for keeping him on as a contributor since he joined the network in 2017.
“There’s been a lot of pressure from outside,” he said. “I was at CNN for 4 1/2 years and literally from the time I started, there were groups out there calling for me to be fired. So in some respects I give CNN credit for holding on for 4 1/2 years in spite of saying things defending President Trump and saying other things about what conservatives believe, and they gave me the opportunity to say it.”
But he said that “one of the things I am concerned about is you get savaged by telling the truth, and I told the truth here.”
Santorum said that when he said that “Native Americans didn’t affect American culture,” he meant “the American founding.”
During the interview, Hannity noted that he has defended figures on the left under fire for comments. He said that he was against ABC’s decision to drop Bill Maher for comments he said after 9/11. Hannity also said that when Joy Reid was under fire after homophobic blog posts surfaced, “I was called by an NBC executive who said, ‘Your public comments played a big role in us being able to keep her,’ meaning her job. She wrote me a nice note. I said people can make mistakes and move on. But not anymore.”
Santorum said that CNN “has a right to fire me. If they don’t like what I am saying or what I am doing, they have a right to fire me. I have no animus at all toward CNN. Like I said, I appreciate the opportunity they gave me. But I think it does show that the left is intolerant. They are worried that their viewership, which is obviously very left, they were going to pay a price. The intolerance of the left is the issue here, and the cancel culture that is flowing from it.”
Hannity then claimed that Fox News has a “diversity of views” compared to CNN.
Yet since the election, Fox News has amplified its opinion hosts, bumping newscasts from the 7 PM ET and 11 PM ET time slots, in favor of five hours of nightly rightward voices. Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO of Fox Corp., even suggested in March that the job of Fox News was to act as the “loyal opposition” to the Biden administration.
The network also fired Chris Stirewalt, its digital politics editor, in a restructuring, but he also defended Fox News’ call of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. That decision created a backlash against the network by Donald Trump and his supporters, who called on viewers to turn to other outlets like Newsmax and One America News Network.
Stirewalt later wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “When I defended the call for Biden in the Arizona election, I became a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.
“Having been cosseted by self-validating coverage for so long, many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally. The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn’t nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact.”