CNN political commentator Rick Santorum—a Republican former Senator and presidential candidate—is facing a slew of backlash after he claimed during a speech at a Young America's Foundation event there was "nothing" in the Americas before White colonizers arrived from Europe.
The viewpoint is central to the Manifest Destiny view of the 18th century and is perpetuated in modern society by White nationalist and White supremacist organizations.
Santorum went on to stick his foot more firmly into his mouth by claiming the Indigenous peoples that were already here haven't contributed much to American culture.
"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."
CNN's Rick Santorum: "We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native… https://t.co/nKMyRC7xHL— Jason Campbell (@Jason Campbell)1619446523.0
Santorum's comments ignored the fact that the systemic cultural genocide of America's Indigenous peoples contributed to why he thinks not much Indigenous culture has permeated "American culture." Integral parts of the cultures of the United States, Canada and Mexico are owed to the Indigenous peoples who populated North America for millennia before widespread European colonization, but often is not properly attributed to them in Eurocentric educational materials.
Santorum also ignored the thousands of years of culturally rich and diverse history before the colonizers arrived on the North American continent.
Hundreds of Indigenous communities existed in the United States before European invaders, conquerors and colonizers arrived. Each tribe had their own culture, values, language and traditions. Any of these communities and cultures that no longer exist are gone as a direct result of colonization.
The lack of Native American culture in the greater American consciousness is the result of intentional efforts to exterminate those cultures—laws against Indigenous people practicing their traditional spiritual or religious practices, the residential school system stealing away young children to forcibly integrate them into colonizers society by stripping them of their families and traditions, the Trail of Tears and other forced relocations, the list goes on and on.
However, the United States Constitution and the very federal structure of the United States is a direct result of studies of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Powhatan confederacies. Three branches of government—with an executive, legislative and judicial branch—mirrors the way the Haudenosaunee handled their federation of the Kanienkéha:ka (Mohawk), Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca nations.
The framers of the Constitution wrote of these inspirations, but a White supremacist based educational system buried these contributions for years until they were revived when the bicentennial of the Constitution was celebrated.
Dietary staples like corn, beans, squash, potatoes and chocolate are all contributions from Indigenous peoples. The Code Talkers of WWI and WWII utilized the languages the federal government had outlawed to make a major impact on the war efforts. Indigenous languages remained the unbreakable codes from both wars.
And those are just a handful of examples Santorum ignored.
@scalzi Yet tons of our geographic names, THANKSGIVING, art, food, so many of our agricultural/craft practices, nav… https://t.co/zrYSkXf1mD— Jean R. Westcott says Hi! (@Jean R. Westcott says Hi!)1619451137.0
Partial list of Native American inventions: Football (Iroquois) Adobe Anesthetics Apartment blocks 🥑 🌽 Appaloosa… https://t.co/5xx7thHPv0— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@Ana Navarro-Cárdenas)1619464179.0
@JasonSCampbell the US constitution is based on the federalist concepts taught to settlers by the Iroquois Confeder… https://t.co/5dzDHOUuNq— lying completely dead on the pavement (@lying completely dead on the pavement)1619455764.0
This is far from the first time Santorum has royally stepped in it, so to speak.
He has had problematic takes that have garnered him online flack about many subjects over the past few years, including school shooting victims should take CPR classes instead of calling for gun control, Trump's abuse of presidential power through executive orders somehow being Obama's fault and Trump gaming the system to dodge taxes was A-OK.
Twitter at large responded to Santorum's callous disregard for Indigenous people's with ire, facts and a heavy dose of snark.
@JasonSCampbell "Indian Residential Schools" were established in the US during the early 19th and mid 20th centurie… https://t.co/LY2TvNK4MN— stonecircle (@stonecircle)1619450613.0
When I asked the National Congress of American Indians' prez for comment on Santorum, I did not expect so much fire… https://t.co/OSiU5yMdCX— Jennifer Bendery (@Jennifer Bendery)1619479891.0
@handgunYoga Let's not forget the code talkers during WWII in the Pacific. They were instrumental in saving 100's o… https://t.co/qbdeLwGvd0— Mr. J (@Mr. J)1619530837.0
@shanlonwu @ReallyAmerican1 @NBCNews Ironic AF that these aryran puckerbutts keep yowling "You will not replace us!… https://t.co/q1wghLhfi5— What A Lovely Day (@What A Lovely Day)1619487358.0
@JoyAnnReid @JasonSCampbell They created a nation through genocidal crimes. But the fact that a white man can migra… https://t.co/SPSaXpCH8d— Mamu Al 💛🐝 (@Mamu Al 💛🐝)1619453974.0
@shanlonwu @ohohyeah @NBCNews Here’s a guy who has watched one episode of the Lone Ranger and thinks he knows every… https://t.co/Z6gWniargO— E. Bjornen (@E. Bjornen)1619490091.0
@JasonSCampbell The idea that white Americans “invented” America out of whole cloth is white supremacist narcissism… https://t.co/jgDVBFbdfD— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@Mrs. Betty Bowers)1619451484.0
@JasonSCampbell At the UN we are holding the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - an integral part of the UN cale… https://t.co/jgAo4jOdxQ— Bob Rae (@Bob Rae)1619462611.0
@BobRae48 @JasonSCampbell Please direct Santorum and those like him to study history, ancient history wouldn’t hurt… https://t.co/AOvO71KYVf— barbara (@barbara)1619493727.0
Many people called for Santorum to be fired from his position with CNN.
Fire. Rick. Santorum. @CNN this isn’t hard and should be done by morning.— Jeff Timmer (@Jeff Timmer)1619490624.0
RT if you agree @CNN should fire Rick Santorum.— ReallyAmerican.com 🇺🇸 (@ReallyAmerican.com 🇺🇸)1619476772.0
@jbendery @CNN this is not a tough call. You can probably? find a conservative voice that isn't a willfully ignoran… https://t.co/RPZcE9oNbI— Jen B (@Jen B)1619480345.0
@JasonSCampbell Rick Santorum literally used the term "birthed a nation," as in the most racist movie in U.S. histo… https://t.co/DAZRZ4lgOj— Russell Drew (@Russell Drew)1619451812.0
Native Twitter was, understandably, especially upset by Santorum's incredibly harmful remarks.
If not for Native generosity, the Pilgrims would have starved to death. Without our ingenious ways to live off the… https://t.co/WWWs4LnPWS— Lakota Man (@Lakota Man)1619479407.0
@JasonSCampbell Sound up @RickSantorum. I got something to teach you! 🤨 There are over 5 million of us "Native Amer… https://t.co/FPv8eFRewq— ReesusPatriot™ (@ReesusPatriot™)1619471570.0
A reminder that the idea Indigenous people or our cultures are extinct is in itself a part of genocide, it is erasu… https://t.co/cqIEQAdTqE— 🍄Baakwezhigan Ⓐ✿ ABOLITION NOW ✾🍄 (@🍄Baakwezhigan Ⓐ✿ ABOLITION NOW ✾🍄)1619494884.0
@LakotaMan1 @von_lex I think what the dork meant to say was "we successfully wiped out most indigenous culture; aren't we splendid!"— Jak King * ✋ #Build4NeednotBuild4Greed * (@Jak King * ✋ #Build4NeednotBuild4Greed *)1619483248.0
Dear @RickSantorum, we will be happy to educate you on the beauty + immense diversity of Indigenous Cultures thrivi… https://t.co/hxUwAefGvC— The Sioux Chef (@The Sioux Chef)1619471956.0
Just thinking about all the Native nations, politicians, artists and activists are out here doing incredible things… https://t.co/pyFzJD5qhg— Rebecca Nagle (@Rebecca Nagle)1619475187.0
Santorum reportedly tried to backtrack and non-apologize for his remark.
One of his aids quoted Santorum saying:
"I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture."
@jeremymbarr @mmfa "No intention." So it just sort of happened organically?— 3CallFinagle (@3CallFinagle)1619468290.0
@jeremymbarr Rick Santorum, Translated: “I had no expectation that anyone outside of that setting would hear me min… https://t.co/6Rsc7aKzyv— wear a mask, please (@wear a mask, please)1619470976.0
@ElizCab @jeremymbarr @BreeNewsome I call both.— Tracey Claybon ⚖️🥀 (@Tracey Claybon ⚖️🥀)1619470920.0
Indigenous peoples are more American than Rick Santorum. https://t.co/wvGeNiJcWl— Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (@Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández)1619462464.0
You can view Santorum's entire remarks below.
His comment about Native Americans begins around the 20:35 mark.