POLITICS

Rick Santorum Regrets Remarks Comparing Homosexuality To Bestiality

"It was a flippant comment that should not have come out of my mouth."

WASHINGTON -- It's a whole new day for Republican presidential contenders making their second bid for the White House. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is making serious efforts to woo black voters, and is becoming one of the fiercest critics of real estate mogul Donald Trump. Meanwhile former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, known for his stringent opposition to same-sex marriage, is softening his rhetoric about gay people.

In a Wednesday interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, a rare sit down for a Republican, Santorum said he "absolutely" regrets comparing homosexuality with bestiality.

"I wish I had never said that ... It was a flippant comment that should not have come out of my mouth. But the substance of what I said -- which is what I referred to -- I stand by that. I don’t -- I wish I had not said it in the flippant term that I did. And I know people were offended by it and I wish I hadn't said it," he said. 

Santorum rocketed to national prominence after a 2003 interview in which he claimed that if a court ruled that people had a right to any type of consensual sex in the privacy of their homes it could also make a ruling doing so for "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be" -- essentially a slippery slope argument.

While he said he regretted the comment, Santorum told Maddow that he was quoting from a Supreme Court decision, Bowers v. Hardwick, which he claimed was "almost word for word what I said." In Bowers, the court upheld the constitutionality of a sodomy law in Georgia, but the ruling was later overturned.

Santorum also treaded carefully in responding to a question about whether being gay is a choice.

"You know, I’ve never answered that question because I don't really know the answer to that question," he said. "But I suspect that there's all sorts of reasons that people end up the way they are. And I'll sort of leave it at that."