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Rick Santorum claims he ‘misspoke’ when claiming ‘there was nothing here’ when settlers arrived

Rick Santorum has said he ‘misspoke’ when he told a forum of young conservatives last month that he believed there was ‘nothing here’ when the white settlers arrived. 

Santorum, a former Republican presidential candidate and senator for Pennsylvania, spoke at the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth group, on April 18. 

‘We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,’ Santorum said. 

‘I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.’

On Monday night, pressed to explain his controversial comments, Santorum insisted he ‘misspoke’.

‘I was talking about – and I misspoke in this respect – I was talking about the founding and the principles embodied in the founding,’ he told CNN. 

‘I would never – and people said I’m trying to dismiss what we did to the Native Americans, far from it.’ 

Rick Santorum (right) on Monday night told Chris Cuomo he ‘misspoke’ on April 13

Santorum has carved out a career for himself as a conservative commentator on CNN

Santorum has carved out a career for himself as a conservative commentator on CNN

The 62-year-old, who faced calls to be fired from CNN for his comments, was adamant on Monday night that he had not intended to offend.

‘What I was not saying was that Native American culture – I misspoke,’ he said. 

‘What I was talking about is, as you can see from the run-up, 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.’ 

Santorum, who holds degrees in business in law, covered the map in his remarks, also speaking about the French Revolution and modern states located on the sites of ancient cultures. 

‘You know, if you think of other countries like Italy and Greece and China, Turkey and places like that, they’ve all, sort of, changed over time,’ he told the forum. 

‘I mean, they’ve been there for millennia in many cases. And their culture has, sort of, evolved over time. But not us.’ 

Santorum is under fire for comments he made at the Young America's Foundation (above)

Santorum is under fire for comments he made at the Young America’s Foundation (above)

On May 6, 1626, Dutch colonial officer Peter Minuit purchases Manhattan Island from Man-a-hat-a Native Americans, for trinkets valued at $24

On May 6, 1626, Dutch colonial officer Peter Minuit purchases Manhattan Island from Man-a-hat-a Native Americans, for trinkets valued at $24

The landing of William Penn by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. The painting shows Penn, in 1682, standing on shore greeted by large group of men and women, including Native Americans

The landing of William Penn by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. The painting shows Penn, in 1682, standing on shore greeted by large group of men and women, including Native Americans

Santorum continued: ‘We came here and created a blank slate.’

He then tried to connect his reading of the nation’s history to his views on religious liberty. 

‘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. Faith and freedom. 

‘I mean, you hear it all the time about faith and freedom, faith and freedom. But it is what makes America unique in the world,’ said Santorum.  

Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat representing New Mexico, led the outrage at his remarks,

‘Indigenous peoples are more American than Rick Santorum,’ she tweeted. 

She chairs a House subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, also took issue with Santorum’s comments, writing: ‘Rick Santorum is an unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform.’

She continued: ‘To correct the record, what European colonizers found in the Americas were thousands of complex, sophisticated, and sovereign Tribal Nations, each with millennia of distinct cultural, spiritual and technological development.

‘Over millennia, they bred, cultivated and showed the world how to utilize such plants as cotton, rubber, chocolate, corn, potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco. 

‘Imagine the history of the United States without the economic contributions of cotton and tobacco alone. It’s inconceivable.’

She added: ‘How ignorant do you have to be not to realize the impact of Native American art on every imaginable facet of American culture, from architecture to furniture making to painting, sculpture, and writing?’ 

Santorum has spent years serving as a conservative voice on CNN, often sparring with more liberal hosts including former Obama administration officials.

Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who like Santorum has been a Republican candidate for president, is president of the foundation where Santorum spoke. 

Former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller has signed on with its campus lecture program.   


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