POLITICS

CNN Drops Rick Santorum After Racist Comments About Native Americans

The former GOP senator lost his contract with the network after claiming there was "nothing" in America before white colonizers arrived.

CNN has terminated its contract with senior political commentator Rick Santorum after racist, inaccurate remarks he made about Native Americans, HuffPost has learned.

Santorum, a former Republican senator and two-time failed GOP presidential candidate, sparked outrage last month after claiming there was “nothing” in America before white colonizers arrived and that Native people haven’t contributed much to American culture, anyway.

“We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,” Santorum told students during remarks at a Young America’s Foundation event. “I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Prominent Indigenous-led organizations including the National Congress of American Indians and Illuminative have spent weeks demanding that CNN fire Santorum over his remarks. National civil rights groups have also called for his firing. CNN has stayed silent on the matter.

But on Saturday, a CNN senior executive told HuffPost that the network quietly ended its contract with Santorum this week. This executive, who requested anonymity to speak openly, said the decision to cut ties with Santorum came after he went on one of the network’s shows, “Cuomo Prime Time,” to explain himself shortly after he made his racist comments. He blew it, said this executive, and after that, nobody at the network wanted to keep him around.

“Leadership wasn’t particularly satisfied with that appearance. None of the anchors wanted to book him,” said the executive. “So he was essentially benched anyway.”

During his appearance on Chris Cuomo’s show, Santorum said he “misspoke” and that his comments were “out of context.” But the context of his remarks was simply that he said them, and he did not apologize during the segment.

“I think after that appearance, it was pretty clear we couldn’t use him again,” said the executive.

A CNN spokesman also confirmed to HuffPost that the network officially parted ways with Santorum this week.

The network has been taking heat from Native advocacy groups and allies for weeks amid its silence on the situation. Their anger at Santorum has been shifting from him to CNN itself.

“Rick Santorum is an unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform,” NCAI president Fawn Sharp said in a fiery statement last month that went viral. “Televising someone with his views on Native American genocide is fundamentally no different than putting an outright Nazi on television to justify the Holocaust. 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.”

On Thursday, Indigenous-led groups teamed up with several Hollywood celebrities for a “day of action” to pressure CNN to fire Santorum. They held a day-long tweet storm with the hashtag #RemoveRick, and a Twitter chat with Native journalists to talk about the impact of Native erasure in the media. They also circulated an open letter to CNN executives with more than 120 signatures from Native leaders; actors including Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Helms, Mark Ruffalo, Piper Perabo and Sarah Silverman; educators and artists.