Did Santorum really say he didn’t want to make “black people’s lives better”?

posted at 8:40 am on January 3, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

This created an eruption on Twitter and in some of our comment threads yesterday evening, thanks to a CBS News transcript that put words into Rick Santorum’s mouth — or one word in particular.  Santorum spoke to a crowd in Iowa yesterday about the fiscal sinkhole of Medicaid, and argued that government shouldn’t redistribute wealth to improve the lives of some at the expense of others.  Santorum stumbled momentarily on the word “lives,” though, and that provided this Rorschach moment for CBS, who reported it thusly on their YouTube channel:

While campaigning in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said if elected he plans to cut regulations and entitlements and he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Except that’s not what Santorum said at all. What he said was, “I don’t want to make [pause] lives, people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” This makes sense in the context of what immediately preceded this statement: “It [Medicaid] just keeps expanding. I was Indianola a few months ago, and I was talking with someone who works at the Department of Public Welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don’t sign up more people under the Medicaid program. They’re just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so that they can get your vote.”

In other words, Santorum’s point didn’t have anything to do at all about race; it had to do with creating a dependency class that includes a lot of Iowans for political purposes. Whether one agrees with this or not, it’s pretty standard fare, and it’s certainly a legitimate concern to raise at a time when ObamaCare will expand the number of people eligible for government subsidies to families who make 60% more than the average household income. Instead of listening carefully to what Santorum actually said, CBS just assumed that Santorum was a racist. Don’t they watch the videos before transcribing them at CBS News?

One person who did listen to what Santorum said was my friend Tommy Christopher, who I assume doesn’t agree with Santorum’s point or much else Santorum has to say. Tommy, however, is both honest and thorough, and says that CBS gave Santorum a bum rap:

A review of a clearer version of the video, however, casts serious doubt on whether Santorum actually said “black people’s lives.”

CBS News has posted a cleaner version of Santorum’s remarks, and it seems as though Santorum did not actually say “black people’s lives,” but rather, that he stumbled in mid-sentence with a verbal tic that sounded like that.

“I don’t want to make…mmbligh…people’s lives better” is what it sounds like to me, although CBS News also transcribes it as “”make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Given the preceding context, in which he talks about the government trying to get more Iowans enrolled in Medicaid, the former explanation makes much more sense than the latter.

The Santorum campaign has still not returned our request for comment.

Here’s the CBS clip. The viewer can judge, but even as an LGBT-friendly liberal, I’m inclined to give Santorum the benefit of the doubt here[.]

“Lives” sounds pretty clear to me, but either way, Santorum wasn’t talking about “black people.” He was talking about all Americans, as the context of his remarks makes obvious. Shame on CBS for this unsubstantiated allegation, and for still not correcting their record.


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