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Santorum, on Greta's FOX Show repudiates donor's contraception joke: "It was stupid"

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WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Rick Santorum said a comment by a major donor about contraception--that women should put an aspirin between their legs to avoid sex and getting pregnant in the first place--"was a stupid joke." Santorum distanced himself from Foster Friess during a Thursday night interview on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News "On the Record" show.

Santorum also accused the media of "trying to play gotcha" on the matter.

Friday marks a week since contraception has exploded on the 2012 White House election scene. A week ago, President Barack Obama was forced to backtrack some on a new rule requiring all employers to offer health insurance with free contraception coverage for women. Obama last Friday allowed religious employers--such as hospitals and non-profits, to opt out--though their insurance carriers would still offer the benefit to women.

On Thursday, during an afternoon interview with Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show, Foster Friess, a major donor to a SuperPac backing Santorum said, "And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's so -- it's such inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptions. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly."

Friess' comments touched off a storm and by the time of Van Susteren's late night show, Santorum found himself answering questions about a key supporter--and his views on birth control--which he had said was "harmful" to women.

"Well, I mean, it's -- look, I'm not going to be responsible for everybody who's -- you know, anybody -- any supporter of mine and what they say. I mean, that's -- that's -- that's -- I'm not going to play that game," Santorum told Van Susteren.

"I mean, the bottom line is my position is very clear. I've had a -- a consistent record on this of supporting women's right to have contraception. I've supported funding for it.

"So -- I mean, this is a -- this is a -- in my opinion, this is an attack on someone's religious beliefs because I have a very strong belief, as does my family, in agreement with the Catholic church, somehow or another, that that's -- that's a -- that's something that people should be afraid of, shouldn't be afraid of it.

"If you look at my record in the public, I've been clear about -- about that issue. I've had a consistent and long voting record on it. And I think this is the media trying to play -- you know, trying to play gotcha. It's -- it's absurd."

Van Susteren pressed Santorum. "All right, well, let me -- let me understand. All right there -- let me just sort it out. There are two issues. One is the creepy supporter, you know, the guy who says something really creepy about you and who's -- is a -- who's a huge fund-raiser for your campaign. Will you at least, you know, correct him about -- I mean, I think most women don't think it's particular funny, his comment," she said.

Replied Santorum, "Yes. No, look, I mean, Foster is known in political circles as telling a lot of jokes, and some of them are not particularly funny, which this one was not. He's not creepy. He's a good man. He's a great philanthropist. He's a very successful businessman.

You know, he told a -- he told a bad, off-color joke, and he shouldn't have done it. But that's -- you know, that's -- that's his business. It certainly doesn't, in my opinion, reflect on the campaign or me because he wasn't doing it as part of our campaign."

Santorum added later, "It was a stupid -- it was a stupid joke."

Turning to birth control, Van Susteren asked Santorum about his 2006 comment that contraception was "harmful to women."

"What I was talking about, generally speaking, in that interview, was that the idea -- the whole concept of sexual liberation, sexual freedom has had its down sides, and certainly birth control is part of that with a dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases, dramatic increase in out of wedlock births, a dramatic increase in the number of abortions," he said.

"I mean, you know, this has -- this has not just been -- you know, not been just, Well, everything's just fine. And I -- I -- that's a -- that's a commentary that I -- again, is not something that is completely out of the mainstream. The bottom line is there are consequences to the sexual revolution that we are living with in America today.

Santorum highlighted to Van Susteren his votes, while a Pennsylvania senator, to provide federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides contraception services.

"Noting those votes Santorum said, "And so, you know, it's funny that on the conservative side, I'm getting ripped for having voted for this. And now all of a sudden, the left is trying to make me out that somehow I -- you know, I want to stop women, or men for that matter, from getting -- you know, doing things and taking things for contraception.

"That -- look, I have my own views on these things. They're deeply held beliefs. But not everything that I think is -- that I disagree with morally should the government be involved in. Only when there is -- there are -- there are real consequences to society or to the -- or to the rights of individuals do I -- do I feel a need to speak out. And that's why I do on the issue of abortion because we have another -- we have another person involved in the decision.

"But the issue of contraception, that's not the case. It's something that people have a right to do in this country. And it certainly will be safe to do so under the Santorum presidency."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 17, 2012 6:01 AM.

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