Rick Santorum’s Faux Outrage

Last night at a speech in Wisconsin, Rick Santorum said that Mitt Romney was the “worst Republican in the country,” to face Barack Obama in the fall:

RACINE, Wis. – Rick Santorum urged Republicans here Sunday evening to carefully study the record of Mitt Romney, declaring: “He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.”

At the final campaign rally of a weekend trip to Wisconsin, Mr. Santorum sharpened the tenor of his argument against Mr. Romney during an appearance here at the South Hills Country Club. He offered a litany of reasons for why he said he believed Mr. Romney presented a weak contrast to Mr. Obama, particularly on health care.

“Pick any other Republican in the country,” Mr. Santorum told supporters here. “He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?

Then, moments later Santorum became angry after the speech when reporters asked him about what he had just said:

When reporters rushed the candidate after his remarks to get a clarification of what he meant, Santorum lashed out, telling the press that he was referring the former Massachusetts governor’s record on healthcare, which made him “uniquely disqualified” to run against President Obama.

Pressed by Zeleny on what he meant, Santorum lashed out and called it “bull(expletive)” to even ask for clarification because he frequently criticizes Romney for his role signing the healthcare legislation in Massachusetts that was later used as a blueprint for the national law passed in 2010.

Zeleny noted that Santorum recently had to walk back remarks that there was no difference between Romney and Mr. Obama.

“So he is very sensitive to these questions now. And I think we saw some animation here. It is one of the reasons his supporters like him because he does become animated like this when he is campaigning,” Zeleny said.

Here’s video of the report that aired on CBS News this morning, which includes part of the speech in question and the video of the confrontation with reporters:

Since nobody seems to have video available that shows Santorum’s full remarks, it’s hard to comment in full on this but it’s clear from what was shown that he didn’t just limit his criticism of Romney to the issue of health care. Whether he had done so prior to the excerpted remarks, I don’t know. As for the confrontation itself, Zeleny said that Santorum knew that the cameras were rolling when he started yelling at reporters, which leads to the suggestion that the entire incident was an incident of staged faux anger on his part.

That conclusion would seem to be bolstered by the manner in which Santorum responded to the incident this morning:

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum cursed at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny on Sunday while campaigning in Wisconsin, saying, “Quit distorting my words. It’s bulls—.”

Monday morning, the presidential candidate explained that he was just acting the way a Republican should.

“If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican, is the way I look at it,” Santorum told Fox News.

Santorum defended his actions even more vigorously in a statement he released this morning: “Earlier today, while campaigning in Wisconsin, I criticized Romney and Obama for their outrageous healthcare legislation. Predictably, I was aggressively attacked by a New York Times reporter all too ready to defend the two of them, and all too ready to distort my words. Let me assure you, I didn’t back down, and I didn’t let him bully me. I think it is high time that conservatives find the courage to expose the liberal press for what they are, a defender and enabler of Romney’s and Obama’s liberal agendas.”

Indeed, that statement is being used as part of a fundraising email in which Santorum is asking Santorum’s to donate $30 (the approximate cost of a subscription to the Times apparently) or more to his campaign. There’s nothing more fruitful among the segment of the right that Santorum appeals to than to attack the media, so one has to wonder whether Santorum’s apparent anger wasn’t just a little bit staged. His campaign sure did act fast to exploit it for fundraising purposes, I must say.

In any case, both of these incidents just strike me as yet more evidence that Santorum is flailing. In many respects, Wisconsin is Santorum’s last stand. The delegate math already makes it a near impossibility that he can win the nomination, but if he loses the Badger State it’s likely that the pressure on him to withdraw and cease his attacks on the man the party needs to united behind will just continue to grow, and that his future prospects in the party will markedly diminish. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more unhinged moments like this if the Santorum campaign thinks they’re working to their advantage.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MBunge says:

    “I wouldn’t be surprised to see more unhinged moments like this if the Santorum campaign thinks they’re working to their advantage.”

    Look, we can either mock Romney for being a zombie-robot or we can get the vapors when Santorum says a naughty word. We can’t do both. Saying “bullshit” qualifies as “unhinged”? So, did Dick Cheney deserve a straight jacket after telling a Democratic senator “go fuck yourself”?


  2. Hey Norm says:

    And the Clown Car rolls on….

  3. Dustin says:

    I found an article that appears to have been published before the media scolding became the issue, because it doesn’t mention it. It doesn’t give us the full context of Santorum’s comment, but it also doesn’t seem to indicate he had limited his comment to only health care.

    Santorum pointed out his plan to get the country back on track embraces the fiscal and social policies of a true conservative: smaller government; lower taxes to help grow the economy; and a push to restore the American family. He said Mitt Romney is not the candidate to take these points directly to President Barack Obama because Romney’s policies too closely mirror those of the President.

    “But I can go point-by-point against Obama because I’ve never supported any of the same measures, and I am the only candidate who can say that,” he said continued. “Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country to face Obama because they’re too much alike.”

    Full Article

  4. Lisa says:

    I don’t think Santorum’s anger was “fake”. It was straight from the heart. It might be predictable by this point in the campaign to be stressed and cranky but he wasn’t faking. It’s about time people stand up to these media hounds that distort and spin the hell out of everything. The truth is what we want and Santorum appears ready to provide it whenever or wherever he can. I say more power to him.

    Getting ready to vote in WI next week. I hope more folks see this and wake up as to who the best choice is.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Lisa: From where I sit, as an intellectual, educated woman, there doesn’t look like much difference between Santorum and the Taliban. Both equally poisonous, both as equally willing to devalue me due to my femaleness and my brains.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    I can’t imagine why he’s still a contender. Look at LA which was supposed to be a big win for Rick, he netted 5 delegates on Romney which cuts his gap down to a “mere” 309. Looking at future contests Rick may win Texas but it’s proportional and latest polling has it going to rick by just 3 percentage points while California (which has more delegates) is winner take all and going to Mitt by 10.

    Rick’s losing all the winner take all and splitting some of the proportional states, there’s just no way that gets him across the finish line. Or even close to it. So why is he bothering at this point?

  7. Mikey says:


    Rick’s losing all the winner take all and splitting some of the proportional states, there’s just no way that gets him across the finish line. Or even close to it. So why is he bothering at this point?

    God hasn’t told him to quit yet?

    Seriously, though, your question’s a good one. As has been pointed out numerous times by several of this blog’s contributors, Santorum has basically got zero chance of pulling off the nomination via the primary process. Perhaps he thinks by staying in he can peel off enough delegates to result in a brokered convention, where he can appeal to the nuttier elements of the GOP and somehow win the nomination that way.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    He is bothering because he is commited to what he sees as today’s Conservative Movement. Romney is not part of that Movement, or any discernable Movement for that matter…except the Romney Movement…and whatever that might mean at any given point in time.
    I agree with very little Santorum has to say about anything…but I admire his commitment and his consistency relative to his opponent.

  9. Fiona says:

    More faux outrage in a Republican campaign season largely animated by faux outrage and hyperbole? Color me shocked.

  10. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Wow, the commenter above who likened Santorum to the Taliban needs an immediate intervention. Even by Internet standards that’s stark raving crazy. It’s time to step up from Paxil all the way to thorazine, Cassandra.

    In any event, I’m not too sure it’s correct to label this as “faux outrage” by Santorum. Santorum as I see it subjectively is outraged by the ways in which he’s been treated by the liberal media. In various respects you can’t really begrudge him. He often is misquoted. His comments often are taken out of context. His positions are stretched, spun and castigated, often indiscriminately. Every faux pas is highlighted, often with partisan gleefulness. If you were Santorum you too probably would be calling bravo sierra on the liberal media, especially the likes of the airheaded NYT.

    Ultimately, however, this really is a moot point. Santorum won’t be the nominee. Unless Romney soon were to develop either a crack or a crystal meth addiction Santorum won’t be the Veep. Ergo after Tampa is in the books Santorum either will be headed back to K Street or he’ll take a full-time gig on Fox News. It seems as though a lot of bandwidth is being devoted to a guy who in four years will be lumped in with the likes of Mike Huckabee & Co.

  11. Chris Mez says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: The term “liberal media” is the part that is BS. What media is actually liberal? FOX news is by far the biggest and baddest in the room – you want to talk distortion? NBC, CNN, CBS – liberal? ridiculous. Even MSNBC has 2 liberal shows but their “news reports” are anything but favorable to any kind of reasonable progressive/liberal agenda. Calling the NY Times airheads? Seriously?

  12. Robert in SF says:

    I guess what gets me about all this reaction by Santorum is how it mirrors many on the left about how Fox Opinion and the Right Wing talk radio shows distort statements and action by the Democrats and liberals allllllll the time, and no one ever calls them on it (successfully)…just look at Newt’s statements about President Obama ‘s supposedly bringing in racial politics and putting thoughts in President Obama’s head (that if it had been a white kid, then that would be OK with President Obama?!) for in the Trayvon Martin tragedy….that was not only wrong, but way out ofline, and not even close the tone or tenor of what President Obama was saying…and Newt knows it.

    I am hoping this calling bullshit on restated positions and so on by *anyone* in the media becomes popular and maybe, just maybe, we can get honesty back into politics…

  13. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    Wow, the commenter above who likened Santorum to the Taliban needs an immediate intervention. Even by Internet standards that’s stark raving crazy

    Actually, believing that Obama is a Muslim is pretty much close to crazy. That Santorum is a religious zealot is pretty much substantiated by his own words.

    [Santorum] often is misquoted. His comments often are taken out of context. His positions are stretched, spun and castigated, often indiscriminately. Every faux pas is highlighted, often with partisan gleefulness.

    Oh, boo-hoo. More classic conservative victimology. Forget about all that other bad stuff that happens if you’re black or gay or a woman or a 9-year-old who needs sCHIP–the real victims here in America are… conservatives being misquoted. Yeah, that never happens to Obama—Gingrich totally did not take Obama sympathing with the family of Trayvon Martin out of context. Nope.

    Frankly, Santorum deserves all the criticism he gets; he’s the one who opened up his pie hole on gays, contraception, porn, health care, etc. He goes from speech to speech bringing up these things, then gets all huffy when people take him to task for his decidedly retrograde views–and not even taken to task, merely asked about something he, himself, said. Good thing the reporter also didn’t ask him about what magazines or papers he likes to read–that would have been totally over the line.

    You right-wing nutters always complain when you have to actually defend your statements. You love to go on and on about your First Amendment right to lecture to all of us depraved fools, but, boy, somebody asks you a question about your own words, you get the vapors and faint on the fainting couch.

    Grow up, crybabies.

  14. labman57 says:

    Santorum suffers from the same weakness as do Palin, Gingrich, Bachmann, Cain, and other tea party brown-nosing political lightweights:

    He regards any reporter or interviewer who has the temerity to hold him accountable for his previously stated positions to be a bullying, biased member of a left-wing conspiracy, and he views any question for which is unwilling or unable to provide an honest, substantive question to be a “gotcha” question.

    In short, these political lightweights feel that members of the news media should act as though they are working for their public relations departments, only asking them the questions that they want to be asked.

    Santorum has defended his outburst with a snarky little response to the effect that every self-respecting Republican politician has cussed out a reporter now and then.

    So according to Righteous Rick, it is a Republican rite of passage to treat journalists (or non-fawning constituents) with contempt.

  15. KarenFern says:

    Is there anything to Rick Santorum other than a profound sanctimoniousness and a fanaticism that scares the living daylights out of most Americans. Putting him on the GOP ticket would be suicidal. It would take the GOP House majority away as well as crushing any hope of the Presidency for another four to eight years. He is as far right as you can go before falling off the edge of the earth and plunging into space — his supporters are probably still flat earthers. He is not even in line with his church on values other than homosexuality and abortion. He has totally ignored Matthew’s words about what happens to those who don’t care about the poor. He is out of synch with the teachings of Vatican II. He is an Opus Dei cooperator, which alienates most Catholics I know and I’m a Catholic theologian.

  16. CSK says:

    Of course it was faux outrage, or outrage staged for effect. He’s trying to prove he’s tough, that ‘s all.