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Santorum: Friess Controversy is 'Gotcha Journalism'

By David A. Patten   |  

GOP contender and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum lashed out at “CBS This Morning” host Charlie Rose on Friday morning, accusing him of “gotcha journalism” after Rose questioned Santorum about a supporter’s offbeat remark on birth control.

Santorum said Rose’s question reflected a media double-standard, because it had not held President Barack Obama responsible for statements made by his associates.

“So I’m now going to have to respond … to every supporter who says something,  now I’m going to have to respond,” Santorum said when Rose pressed for his reaction.

“Look, this is what you guys do,” Santorum continued. “I mean, you don’t do this with President Obama. In fact, with President Obama what you did was you went out and defended him against someone he went out and sat in a church for, for 20 years, and defended him that he can’t possibly believe what he listened to for 20 years.

“This is a double standard, this what you’re pulling off, and I’m going to call you on it,” Santorum declared.

From there, Santorum reiterated his record of qualified support for contraception services, and shifted the discussion to what he considers the focus of his campaign: economy and job creation.

The sharp exchange was sparked by a quirky attempt at humor from Foster Friess, a prominent Santorum backer.

In reference to President Obama’s controversial contraception mandate, Friess quipped to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Thursday: “This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's so... inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly," he said.

Mitchell appeared taken aback, and remarked “Excuse me, I'm just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly."

Friess later apologized, stating on his blog that the “aspirin joke bombed as many didn’t recognize it as a joke but thought it was my prescription for today’s birth control practices.”

Santorum objected Friday to being held accountable for a remark from a supporter who has no official role in his campaign, thereby distracting voters from his proposals to get the economy working again.

Rich Noyes, director of research for the Media Research Center watchdog group, said the networks are using “a klutzy joke” to try to paint Santorum as an extremist.

“ABC's Jon Karl on Thursday's ‘World News’ called it ‘a reminder of just how far to the right he [Santorum] is on social issues,’” Noyes said. “On Friday's ‘Today on NBC,’ David Gregory said the focus on social issues is ‘causing a lot of anxiety within the Republican Party.’”

Conservatives continue to insist that the contraception controversy is an issue of religious liberty, not contraception per se.

“The fact of the matter is, only one presidential candidate has attempted to force their views on birth control into public policy, and that's Barack Obama and his Obamacare mandate on religiously-affiliated institutions,” Noyes told Newsmax. “But the networks paint the president as a compromiser and a moderate, while casting Santorum as the extremist.

“It's just the latest sign of how the liberal media plan to frame this year's campaign in ways they think will help Obama,” Noyes said.

Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Doug Schoen tells Newsmax that the issue works against Santorum politically.

“It’s not fatal,” said Schoen, “but it certainly underscores the problems of running a campaign based on social issues and super PACS funded by one wealthy person who is not used to, or comfortable with, contemporary requirements of political correctness.”

Some analysts, however, are pointing out that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich revived his campaign by taking on the mainstream media.

Friess is a major Santorum contributor, reportedly donating $331,000 to the pro-Santorum Red, White, and Blue Fund political action committee in 2011.


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