NAACP Statement on Recent Comments by Former Senator Rick Santorum

(Baltimore, MD) – According to NPR and other sources, former Senator Rick Santorum singled out African Americans as recipients of federal assistance yesterday during a speech in Sioux City, IA. The NAACP does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office, but has always opposed discrimination by standing up to misleading, ignorant or inflammatory comments.

“Senator Santorum’s targeting of African Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “He conflates welfare recipients with African Americans, though federal benefits are in fact determined by income level. In Iowa for example, only nine percent of food stamp recipients are black, while eighty-four percent of recipients are white.”

“This kind of statement is harmful because it places blame on struggling Americans due to race rather than the institutional, economic and political forces that cause high unemployment and poverty,” stated Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “It is misleading for Senator Santorum to imply that Iowans or Americans of any race would prefer to live on government subsidies, which average only $133.79 a month, or about $4.50 dollars a day. The NAACP has always opposed discriminatory comments of any kind.”

According to several news sources, Senator Santorum made the following comments yesterday while discussing Medicaid and other federal benefits programs. He reportedly said:

‘I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program. They're 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 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. The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again.’

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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