The Slatest

CNN Gets Rid of Rick Santorum After Comments on Native Americans

Rick Santorum arrives for a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York.
Rick Santorum arrives for a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. KENA BETANCUR/Getty Images

CNN has dropped former Sen. Rick Santorum as one of its political analysts following controversy over racist remarks he made about Native Americans. A CNN spokesperson confirmed the network has “parted ways” with Santorum but didn’t go into details. The move comes after there was an uproar over a speech that the former Pennsylvania senator and presidential hopeful gave in April to a conservative youth group. “We birthed a nation from nothing,” Santorum told the Young America’s Foundation. “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.”

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Santorum, who joined CNN as a senior political commentator in 2017, was roundly criticized for the remarks. The National Congress of American Indians called Santorum “an unhinged and embarrassing racist” and called for CNN to oust him. “Any mainstream media organization should fire him or face a boycott from more than 500 Tribal Nations and our allies,” the group said. The Native American Journalists Association also called for Santorum to be fired and added that it “cautions Native American and Alaska Native reporters from working with, or applying to jobs at, CNN in the wake of continued racist comments and insensitive reporting directed at Indigenous people.”

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A CNN senior executive told HuffPost, which was first to report the news, that the network ended the contract with Santorum this week but the decision had been made weeks ago. He wrote his own firing papers after he appeared on Chris Cuomo’s prime-time show on May 3 and was given an opportunity to apologize and explain himself. “Leadership wasn’t particularly satisfied with that appearance. None of the anchors wanted to book him,” said the executive. “So he was essentially benched anyway.” Many were expecting Santorum to strongly apologize but instead he said he “misspoke” and that his comments were taken “out of context” so it only angered many at CNN more. “I think after that appearance, it was pretty clear we couldn’t use him again,” the executive said. The Washington Post also spoke to a CNN source who said Santorum’s non-apology ended up marking the end for Santorum at the network. “I don’t think that people thought his clarification was satisfactory,” the source said. “That didn’t help his case, that appearance.”

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Some on CNN were not shy about publicly saying what they thought about Santorum’s appearance. “I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren’t: ‘I’m sorry, I said something ignorant,’” CNN host Don Lemon said. “Did he actually think it was a good idea for him to come on television and try to whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed? I mean, It was horrible.”

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