June 20, 2021

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CNN cuts ties with Rick Santorum over comments about Native Americans – Axios

2 min read

CNN has dropped Rick Santorum as a senior political commentator amid controversy over recent disparaging remarks the former senator made about Native Americans.

Driving the news: Speaking at a Young America’s Foundation event last month, Santorum said, “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.”

What they’re saying: “[I] can confirm that we parted ways,” Alison Rudnick, vice president of HLN Communications and CNN Diversity & Inclusion, told Axios by email.

  • Santorum, who is also a former Republican presidential candidate, said in an emailed statement to Axios, “When I signed on with CNN, I understood that I would be providing commentary that is not regularly heard by the typical CNN viewer.  
  • He added he greatly appreciates the opportunity CNN provided him over the past four years and that he’s “committed to continuing the fight for our conservative principles and values.”

Of note: Santorum appeared on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” not long after the Young America’s Foundation event to explain his comments. Santorum said he “misspoke” and that he “was not trying to dismiss Native Americans.”

  • CNN leadership “wasn’t particularly satisfied with that appearance,” an executive told HuffPost, which first reported the news of Santorum’s departure from the network.
  • “None of the anchors wanted to book him,” the executive added. “So he was essentially benched away.”

The big picture: CNN’s split with Santorum follows pressure from Indigenous-led groups and others, who called on the network to fire the former senator.

  • “Rick Santorum is an unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, in a statement last month.
  • “Televising someone with his views on Native American genocide is fundamentally no different than putting an outright Nazi on television to justify the Holocaust,” Sharp added. “Any mainstream media organization should fire him or face a boycott from more than 500 tribal nations and our allies from across the country and worldwide.”
  • Following news of CNN’s decision, Sharp tweeted, “It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Justice is served.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with Santorum comments in reaction to his being dropped by CNN.

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