Santorum defends remarks on Obama's faith
February 19, 2012, 10:25 p.m.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum denied Sunday that he had questioned President Obama's Christian faith, but said the president held an environmental belief "that elevates the Earth above man."
Santorum was quoted Saturday as telling an audience in Ohio that although he accepted the president's Christianity, he believed Obama adhered to "some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology."
Asked about that statement Sunday on CBS'"Face the Nation," Santorum framed the issue as a disagreement over global warming and how "radical environmentalists" care for the Earth.
"I accept the fact that the president's a Christian," he said. "I just said that when you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man, and says that, you know, we can't take those resources because we're going to harm the Earth by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, like for example that politicization of the whole global warming debate, this is just all an attempt to centralize power, to give more power to the government."
He added: "I'm talking about the belief that man should be in charge of the Earth and should have dominion over it and should be good stewards of it."
An Obama campaign advisor told ABC's "This Week"that the Republican candidate went "well over the line" in his comments about the president's theology. Robert Gibbs, a former White House spokesman, said it was time "to get rid of this mind-set in our politics that, if we disagree, we have to question character and faith."
A Santorum rival, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, also leveled criticism at the former Pennsylvania senator and said he doubted that Santorum could defeat Obama.
"His voting record is ... from my viewpoint, an atrocious voting record — how liberal he's been in all the things he's voted for over the many years he was in the Senate and in the House," Paul said onCNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley.
A third GOP candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, used his Sunday talk show appearance to defend casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who with his wife has contributed $11 million to an independent political committee backing Gingrich. Gingrich said Adelson helped his candidacy offset millions of dollars in attack ads from Mitt Romney and his allies.
"Sheldon Adelson is desperately worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon and he is desperately worried about the survival of Israel, and I am the strongest candidate on foreign policy and the strongest candidate on national security," Gingrich told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.
Last month, Gingrich called on Santorum to drop out of the race so that voters could consolidate behind a Romney alternative. But he rebuffed Wallace's question about whether he should do the same, now that Santorum is leading him in the polls.
"I think you should have played Rick's answer, which I now agree with ... which was no," he told Wallace.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney had no public events Sunday. All four candidates will meet in a debate Wednesday in Arizona.
Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.