Rick Santorum says he 'misspoke' after saying 'there isn't much Native American culture in American culture'

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Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
·3 min read
Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks at the American Conservative Union (CPAC) 2016 annual conference in Maryland March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
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The National Congress of American Indians is renewing calls for CNN to fire political commentator Rick Santorum after he made comments about Native American culture and the lack of it in America.

Santorum gave a speech about “birthing a nation from nothing” at the Standing Up For Faith & Freedom Conference for the Young America's Foundation, a conservative youth organization on April 23. A video clip from his address went viral.

“We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture," the former Pennsylvania senator said.

“It was born of the people who came here pursuing religious liberty, to practice their faith, live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so.”

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In a statement to USA TODAY, former Sen. Santorum said, “I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”

On Monday night, he told CNN's Chris Cuomo that he "misspoke."

The president of the National Congress of American Indians, Fawn Sharp, called Santorum arrogant for this response.

“I was optimistic he would own it, he would recognize it and he would apologize,” Sharp said, “but he did none of those things.”

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CNN has not commented on Santorum’s initial remarks. There’s been no indication of a change in status for Santorum, a commentator who was often tasked with giving the Republican point of view during campaign coverage.

Responses to the clip varied from diving deeper into why Native American culture is missing to calls for CNN to terminate him.

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In the beginning of the video clip, Santorum said he didn’t know of any other country that was “settled by people who were coming to practice their faith.” He said the mostly European settlers came with Judeo-Christian principles and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“That’s what our founding documents are based on,” he said. "It's in our DNA."

The 2016 presidential candidate has made waves with his statements before.

Santorum made controversial comments to students in 2018, about their efforts to change gun laws after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that," Santorum said as a guest on CNN's "State of the Union."

Calls to CNN and Santorum's organization, Patriot Voices, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Contributing: Associated Press

Email reporter Asha Gilbert agilbert@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rick Santorum says he 'misspoke' on Native American culture