Iowa watch: Sharpton hears a who!


Santorum’s ugly line: Wow! As the day of reckoning drew near, the other tribe has gotten ugly!

Luckily, Al Sharpton blew the whistle at the start of last evening’s show:
SHARPTON (1/2/12): It’s a race to the bottom in Iowa.

Tonight, Rick Santorum says he doesn’t want to give black people somebody else’s money. An ugly line from a season of ugly campaigning.
Good grief! Rick Santorum said he doesn’t want to give black people somebody else’s money! We put down everything else we were doing. Soon, we got the full tale:
SHARPTON: Tonight’s lead: Playing ugly in Iowa. Just a day from the first voting of 2012 and the candidates’ appeals just getting uglier.

Rick Santorum, the GOP’s newest flavor of the month, is surging, but his words on government and African-American are offensive to watch.

SANTORUM (videotape): What President Obama wants to do, his economic plan is to make more people dependent upon the government, to grow the government to make sure that we have more food stamps and more SSI and more Medicaid. Four in 10 children now are on government-provided health care.

It just keeps expanding. They are just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That’s what the bottom line is.

I don’t want to make people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.

SHARPTON: The opportunity to earn their own money? Wow. What a concept!

Are black people the only ones to receive federal aid, Mr. Santorum?

There’s so many things wrong with what Santorum said, starting with the facts. Most Americans on food stamps, 34 percent, are white. Twenty-two percent of food stamp recipients are black and 17 percent are Hispanic.
For our money, Santorum’s presentation was basically dumb, though Obama has added millions of people to the number who get government help with their health care. (We support that approach.) But when Santorum said, “They are just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote” (our emphasis), he was speaking to a room that was full of Iowa’s famous white people.

He said nothing about black people or Hispanics. The people he spoke to were white.

Sharpton could hear the whistle, and it was ugly. Or does he just believe you’re dumb? That you are hopelessly tribal?

The plutocrats win when we work to divide. Though cable ratings may rise in the process, allowing more bucks to be stuffed in the pants of some of our very best friends.

Like you, we'll be having lots of fun with all these friends tonight.


  1. Wrong Bob -- Santorum did mention black people:

    SANTORUM: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

  2. I think Santorum was wrong to specifically mention blacks. Not to excuse him, it's possible that he was thinking of blacks because he mentioned having been in Indianola. Presumably, that's Indianola, Mississippi, which is 73% African American.

    BTW I don't think Sharpton's food-stamp recipient numbers were correct. He said 34% white, 22% black and 17% Hispanic, which would leave 27% Native American and Asian. I found another source, which says that the figures are
    •41% white
    •36% African-American
    •18% Hispanic
    •3% Asian
    •2% Native American
    •1% unknown race or ethnicity

  3. He was referring to Indianola, Iowa.

  4. Santorum was grossly wrong to single out African Americans, especially among white Republicans, who perpetuate the myth that the majority of people on welfare or governmental programs are black. That is not true. It wasn't even true when Ronald Reagan used this kind of rhetoric. It's disgusting and yes, Mr. Somerby, though I know you dislike hearing it, racist.

    On another note, did anyone else see the New York Times frothing today over Rick Santorum's "sweater vests"? The reporter goes on to talk about the outfits of the other candidates. I am not making this up: see here: Jeremy Parker: "Sleeveless and V-Necked, Santorum’s Sweaters Are Turning Heads". Whose heads? The dingbat New York Times reporters and their cohort? These people are beyond pitiable. Meanwhile, Santorum's racist comments and deranged proposed policies merit almost no commentary from these folks. But he wears SWEATER VESTS, people!

  5. Glad the quotation from Santorum was corrected right off the bat in the comments. After reading Bob's post I was starting to think that I was hearing Santorum's "dog whistle" as I could have sworn he specifically singled out blacks as being the people whose lives he didn't want to improve by means other than providing them with some nebulous "opportunity" to go out and earn their own damn money.

  6. "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money," Santorum begins. "I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families."

    And you can hear it for yourself at NPR.

  7. Bob is correct. Santorum didn't use the word "black," although he fumbled over his words and emitted a sound that could be mis-heard as "black."

    I'm no Santorum supporter, but jumping to latch onto this sort of thing is one of the ways that the public discourse is lowered, as Bob tirelessly documents.

  8. @Anonymous... it didn't sound like he was stumbling, though it wasn't 100% clear. He did say a word beginning with "bla", and it was pretty smooth, not stumbling.

  9. Sorry Anon, he sound he "emitted" was the phrase "black people." I'm curious if you listened to the NPR story. There is a bit of a stutter/fumble before he "emits" the phrase but its clear as a bell that he says "black people".

  10. It sounded to me as if Santorum started to say the word "black" and then tried to stop half way through that word.

  11. I listened to the NPR report and Santorum said "black people." I wish I could have heard more to understand the context more, like the question he was answering and more of his answer.

  12. To anyone who "heard" him without looking at the video, you should check out the video. It looks to me as if he started to say "lives," and then corrected himself to say "people's lives," but unfortunately for him it ended up sounding as if he was saying "black people's lives."

    If you're not convinced, let's think for a second about what is being alleged. First of all, as Bob notes, the phrase "black people" doesn't even make sense in the context of what Santorum was talking about, when he's addressing what looked to be an all-white crowd and saying that the government wants to get "more of you dependent" upon it.

    Second of all, for all of Santorum's many faults, I don't see him, or any of the major candidates, saying something so dumb, at least in a televised setting.

    This really is another distraction from the topics that should matter, but never seem to get any serious air time -- like how best to fix the economy, whether our foreign policy makes sense, and the like.

  13. My wife and I watched Rev. Al last night, and neither of us heard Santorum say "Black" then, so I can understand why Bob didn't hear it, either.

    I was a bit puzzled when Al went on a rant about it, but I scratched it up to the old "Welfare Queen" stereotype, i.e., the obese black woman that drives her Cadillac to the liquor store to cash her AFDC check.

    After all, it's Al's show; He can call it as he sees it.

    The tapes show Santorum did say Black, though it sounded like he tried to bite it off at the last instant. It sounded like he he was saying "blive"

    The question here is, was it a Freudian slip that indicates Santorum is a racist at heart, or was it that he was preoccupied with Black people when he made the particular comment, (as he claims now)?

    If, instead of welfare, the subject had been education, or urban teenage jobs, or teen pregnancy, would the comment be considered racist?

    On the other hand, if a member of the Democratic Black Caucus made the same statement, would there be any controversy whatsoever?

    I'm sure this will be a classic, "Did the batter break his wrists on that strike call"?

    One problem remains. We have the re-run, but there's no ump to make the call official.

  14. The NPR reporter, our first poster Andrew and dannyinla all have it right.

    Bob Somerby has it wrong.

    Rick Santorum did indeed say:

    "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money, I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families."

    Maybe he can (maybe he already has?) corrected/retracted his statements -- fine. Maybe he'll deny it instead, calling our hearing poor, like some here on this thread.

    But he did say what he said: "black people."

  15. Yes, it's clear from the video that Santorum said "I don't want to make li--people's lives better..." CBS's Lucy Madison stated as a fact that he referred to "black people's lives" and it's certainly possible to get that impression, but that's not what he said. She should listen and watch the video again and then we can go on to actual issues.

  16. The essence of cognitive bias is revealed in a situation of uncertainty. Here there is ambiguity. If you like Santorum you give him the benefit of the doubt. If you have bad feelings toward him or the other tribe, as Bob notes, you assume the worst of Santorum.

  17. doesn't share your take on their video, Anonymous @ 2:22.

    They seem to agree Rick Santorum said the thing he said:;lst;5

  18. The audio in dannyinla's NPR clip at the 2:00 minute mark sounds clearer to me than the audio in Andrew's CBS clip at the 22 second mark. Sounds to me like Sen. Santorum said "black" in both clips. You'll notice Ted Robbins at NPR and Lucy Madison at CBS report having heard the same thing. Collective hysteria I guess.

  19. Wow. This is becoming a "kerning" sort of debate.

    Look, he said "black people"... deal with it.

  20. We should take to heart Bob's underlying message: there is a profound problem today in that we will choose to talk and care so much about the deep character issues of the politician of the week instead of discussing how we should shape the mechanics of our government so as to make our culture richer.

    Alas, we live in yet another era of Bread and Circuses.

  21. Let's go after what Santorum (whom I earnestly regard as a dickhead of the first water)said with a bit of context added.

    (Santorum addressing what appears to be a unanimously white audience)"They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote."

    So first he says that the government wants his mostly-white audience to become dependent.

    Then, just a bit later.

    "I don't want to make bla-people's live better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to earn the money...And the best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again."

    Even if Santorum actually did say "black" it's nothing very different than what liberals have been saying for years. Liberals want to get manufacturing going again and they frequently express anger at how poor blacks are compared to whites. If Obama said that he wanted to improve inner city neighborhoods by reestablishing manufacturing how many liberals do you suppose would complain about that? From where I sit not very many.

    Republican policies have been disastrous but from a racial standpoint there doesn't seem to be anything terribly incriminating here.

    Every moment squandered trying to make race an issue represents a time that could have been spent explaining to people just how regressive, deluded and disastrous Republican policies have been, are and will likely be in the future.

  22. Republicans rationalizing racism. The comments of the candidates constantly echo stereotypes. Tea Party supporters and Republicans are so upset with the Obamas because both husband and wife defy the stereotypes they assign to men and women of color.

  23. Yes, let's take to heart Bob's underlying message and ignore the evidence of our eyes and ears. Which is, after all, Bob's underlying message.

    In his capacity to ignore or avoid race, Bob has outdone himself here.

    Most of this thread is getting into Zapruder territory. Santorum said black. What kind of person goes out of his way to ignore what he heard?

  24. Anonymous:

    "Republicans rationalizing racism. The comments of the candidates constantly echo stereotypes. Tea Party supporters and Republicans are so upset with the Obamas because both husband and wife defy the stereotypes they assign to men and women of color."

    Aren't you stereotyping to beat the band yourself?

    Confused as Ever:

    "Yes, let's take to heart Bob's underlying message and ignore the evidence of our eyes and ears."

    Aren't you ignoring the fact that Santorum initially said to his overwhelmingly white audience,"They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote."?

    On a per-capita basis blacks do receive a disproportionate share of government support. That is by no means entirely their fault as three hundred years of slavery and Jim Crow will screw just about any group up. Still, programs like Medicaid are designed with poor people in mind. Since blacks are disproportionately impoverished how racist really is it to associate blacks with programs designed to help the poor? And if we could give blacks factory jobs wouldn't that be an improvement?

  25. There's so many reasons to not like Santorum, the question of his being racist or not really doesn't add much for me. I can never see his name without being reminded of his sick fascination with bestiality, for example. Why not stick with the freakishly awful things we know beyond the shadow of a doubt he really said, and which he's ever so proud to stand behind?

  26. Could we all agree that Sharpton, honestly and not without justification (whether correctly or not is another matter), believed that Santorum said "black people"? Then Sharpton's outrage and approach in his story, even if (arguably) not the best tactics, still don't deserve quite the critique bob s. gives here.
    Also, two things. Why does Santorum mention food stamps, SSI, and Medicaid (federal aid most in his audience probably don't receive) rather than, say, agricultural subsidies, Medicare, and SS? The latter would more likely be within the realm of experience of the "you" bob s. focuses on. As for Sharpton, does he go on to discuss the need for better education and jobs policies for the poor, whatever their race or region? May not in this segment (I actually half watched it last night but can't remember now), but he does on other occasions. I'm no Sharpton fan, but he's better than most on cable in this regard.
    I will say for Santorum that, on some level, I take him as a sort of decent person and sincere in his beliefs. He's just pretty stupid. And I do mean, low IQ. And monumentally blinkered.
    Let me second the comment above about today's NYT's story re Santorum's vest-wearing. Pure idiocy, and not even done with a veneer of cleverness or irony. Of course, this was a man writing about men's dressing....

  27. If you change the onset of voicing, a p is heard as a b. He could have been beginning to say a word beginning with p, as in "people's" not b as in black. The cutoff voicing is because he tried to inhibit the word, then repeated what he intended to say, people's lives. This will be affected by editing. People differentiate closely similar speech sounds by looking at the face, so the accounts based on video are more accurate than those based on audio alone. I don't consider CBS an expert on anything, so who cares what their interpretation was?

  28. I heard a who, too, clear as a bell.

  29. On Planet Bob, Rick didn't say "black" (even though we heard him with our own ears and saw his lips move). Just as on Planet Bob there was no conversion of the Dixiecrats to the GOP post civil rights legislation; no Southern Strategy; no Reagan race baiting about welfare queens; no Lee Atwater; and so forth. How could there be any of those things? Racial politics just exists in the minds of MSNBC hosts. The real racism that real people encounter in the real illusion.

    On Planet Bob, progressives would win over working class white voters to the Democratic Party by doing things Bob's way, even though those voters have no interest in being Dems.

    On Planet Bob, Skip Gates being arrested IN HIS OWN HOME AFTER PRESENTING IDENTIFICATION wasn't evidence of racism.

    Can we talk? Sure. Talk with black people for a change. Find our what they think.

  30. There are no racists anymore according to bob. only well meaning tea party folk that happened to discover the deficit when obama entered office. Being from PA I've heard more idiocy than this from the monumental moron santorum. Nothing he says to demean others would surprise me. He's been a hypocrite ahole of the highest order for more than 20 years. I hope he wins tonight.

  31. Some 12 hours after posting in error that Santorum did NOT say "black" when all the world heard "black," let's go to a bigger point (and pardon Bob in the spirit of his being correct about so much for so long). And that bigger point is this - that the dog whistlers of MSNBC (most recently Maddow, Sharpton and O'Donnell...and Olbermann if you remember that forgotten Friday night Thurber lover) have so often committed these crimes and misdemeanors that we fully expect them to continue to do so. It is a rare day when they open their mouths and an embarrassment does not spew forth. It is no surprise that Bob came out swinging again because the clowns are so often on parade. But Bob - whose screeds we have all come to admire - must also have his tootsies held to the fire. So, Bob, I imagine it's chilly where you are tonite, so enjoy the footwarming.

  32. Having seen the CBS tape, I'm not so sure that Santorum meant to say "black," he isn't fully articulating the word, so I'm not sure if he is stumbling, or trying to say something else, or trying to stomp himself before it comes out. I can definitely see how someone (including myself) could hear "black," particularly if they are prompted to hear it (i.e. others tell them that's what he said). All in all, I think this is a tempest in a teapot, and that we have better things to talk about (I hope).

  33. It's classic confirmation bias. It's an ambiguous sound, which I hear as 'bligh' or possibly 'blight'. Some people confirm their preconceptions by hearing it as 'black'.

    Note, however, that Gravymeister thinks Santorum meant to say 'black', but acknowledges not hearing a short 'a' or 'k' sound.

  34. Santorum was interviewed and directly questioned about the comment. He did not deny that he said it. He did not imply that he would not have said it.

    Instead of denial (the ridiculous path chosen by Somerby and many commenters here), Santorum chose to clarify his thought.

    Santorum said he meant that "all" people, not just black people, would be helped by his conservative policies instead of liberal welfare-state policies.

    To repeat: Asked point-blank about his comment, Santorum pled that it should be taken in the context of his overall political philosophy -- which, he stressed, will help *all* Americans who are oppressed by onerous, paternalistic government.

    He did not deny making the statement.

    Certainly, Bob -- let's fight the insane ideas, not the racial strawmen.

    But let's not pretend people haven't said what they have said.

  35. Bob, your transcript is messed up. You yourself have warned before about relying on transcripts. Go watch the video.

  36. Sorry, you are not correct here. Santorum expressly did mention Black people as I just heard on Democracy Now much to my shock.

  37. Democracy Now played the tape of Rick Santorum mentioning Black people and the mention seemed completely clear to me. There will be a transcript later.

  38. "To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle."

    Eric Blair, as relevant as ever.

  39. I have excellent hearing, have learned to distinguish the sounds of three non-European languages, and teach my own native language to children who speak another language at home. I hear not only the initial blend /bl/ but also short a very clearly. The soft final /k/ is standard North American English pronunciation. Unvoiced final consonants like /k/, /t/, and /p/ are difficult for learners of North American English to acquire because these sounds are barely audible in the speech of native speakers. No ambiguous sounds or confirmation bias for listeners with normal hearing and awareness of the American language.

  40. Gotta go with "black people" there, Bob.

    Plain as can be.

    That's OK though- it's just a reminder to us, your devoted readers, that even you have your faults...

  41. I heard: "'s lives..."

    not "black"

  42. Santorum has been asked about the incident on two occasions that I know of. He wasn't shown a clip either time. He had no way of knowing what was being talked about.

  43. @Anonymous 10:05

    You say you have 'excellent hearing', then you suggest that anyone with 'normal hearing' would hear the same thing you do.

    I'm skeptical that your hearing is any better than your reasoning skills.

  44. Anonymous' comment at 10:05 is best read as an excerpt from a Monty Python skit.

  45. I heard "black," but it's clearly not what he meant to say. These folks have to speak for hours each day, eventually half a syllable is going to come out that they didn't want to say.

    This guy is completely unqualified to lead the US, and was so well before this slip, and I do wish we'd talk about that more.

  46. @Amused


    I didn't know what you meant until I tried it. British accent, slightly exaggerated pomposity, and perfect comic timing. Hilarious!

  47. "Anonymous' comment at 10:05 is best read as an excerpt from a Monty Python skit."

    I liked Anonymous' comment at 10:05! (and think he's probably right).

    But pretty funny, 8-), all around great thread.

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