CNN has fired contributor and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum over comments the Pennsylvania Republican made that many perceived as offensive to Native Americans.
According to Reuters, CNN announced Saturday that it had dropped Santorum from its contributor roster, a move that came after a public outcry over remarks Santorum made minimizing the impact of Native American culture on modern-day America.
“We came here and created a blank slate,” Santorum said, according to NBC News. “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.”
Advocates and historians took exception with Santorum’s comments, which University of Illinois anthropology professor Timothy Pauketat said were widely inaccurate.
“We have proof positive of massive Thanksgiving festivals at Cahokia [in Illinois] with lots of the same ingredients that the pilgrims were treated to centuries later,” Pauketat told NBC in an email.
“I wonder if [the reason] Santorum doesn’t appreciate that the absence of certain kinds of native culture in certain parts of the United States — say Pennsylvania — is because the native people there were exterminated,” he added.
“Everything I’ve ever fought for”
In later remarks on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, Santorum tried to walk back his comments, saying he “misspoke.”
“I was talking about the founding, and the principles embodied in the founding,” the former lawmaker explained, according to Reuters.
“The way we treated Native Americans was horrific. It goes against every bone and everything I’ve ever fought for, as a leader, in the Congress,” he added. “I was simply talking about the founding documents of the United States, not the Colonies.”
“We couldn’t use him again”
CNN confirmed to The Hill in a statement that it had “parted ways” with Santorum. “None of the anchors wanted to book him,” one network executive said, according to The Hill. “I think after that appearance, it was pretty clear we couldn’t use him again.”
As Reuters noted, Santorum responded to his ouster from CNN with a tweet saying he appreciated “the opportunity CNN provided” to share his thoughts on current issues and would continue to fight for “conservative principles and values.”
When I signed on with CNN, I understood I would be providing commentary that is not regularly heard by the typical CNN viewer. I appreciate the opportunity CNN provided me over the past 4 years. I am committed to continuing the fight for our conservative principles and values.
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) May 23, 2021