Rick Santorum on Satan Speech: ‘I Will Defend Everything I Say’

Feb 21, 2012 11:46pm

PHOENIX — Rick Santorum made a veiled mention this evening of a controversy that bubbled up after audio of a speech the candidate gave in 2008 in which he said Satan was attacking U.S. institutions in government and religion made its way around the Internet.

“I think the reason we are doing so well is because we are available to the American public, no teleprompters, no speeches … sometimes, I’ve been told that when you don’t read off a teleprompter, they may find a thing or two and say, ‘Oh, he said this and he might mean this,’” Santorum said at a rally here.

“And the media complains so much about these structured candidates and how they are all so robotic,” he said. “And then of course when they have a candidate that doesn’t do any of those things they say, ‘Oh he’s really out there, you have to worry about what he says.’ No you don’t, because I will defend everything I say.”

In the speech at the conservative Catholic Ave Maria University in Florida, Santorum praised the Catholic Bishop Samuel Aquila for pledging to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights and said the matter went beyond politics and was a symptom of Satan’s reach in U.S. society.

The story was the lead item on the Drudge Report today and the candidate was asked about it after the address to about 250 people.

“These are questions that are not relevant to what is being discussed in America today; what we are talking about in America today is trying to get America going,” Santorum said today. “That’s what my speech is about, that’s what we have been talking about in this campaign. If you want to dig up old speeches of me talking to a religious group, then go right ahead and do so, but I’m going to stay on message and I’m going to talk about things that Americans want to talk about: creating jobs , making our country safe and secure and, yeah, taking on the forces around this world that want to do harm to America.”

Santorum again seemed to mention the issue when he said to the crowd that his campaign “has been about very simple things” and America is a country “that when someone is in trouble, and forces of evil are moving, America would stand up and call evil by its name.”

“Ronald Reagan did that. He called the Soviet Union an evil empire and the media went wild. How dare you describe terms like good and evil to regimes? Because Ronald Reagan told the truth, he didn’t sugarcoat it,” Santorum said.

The latest Gallup tracking poll shows Santorum up 10 points over Mitt Romney nationally, and a new Time/CNN poll  shows Romney with a slight lead in Arizona with 36 percent support to Santorum’s 32 percent. Santorum also told reporters his campaign has raised $6 million in the month of February alone.

Santorum did not spend time discussing issues Arizona is grappling with, such as the foreclosure crisis or even illegal immigration, an issue still very important to Republicans here. He did take on Romney, though, saying his rival “has run as a liberal, a moderate, and a conservative.”

“He endorsed and supported a whole host of liberal groups, including Planned Parenthood, when running for governor, and then as president decided to run as a conservative. I have never changed my views, ever,” Santorum said. “See who will win and run as a conservative. I will ensure you that I will actually run as a conservative. There is a handful of swing states. We put Pennsylvania in play, Ohio, Michigan, Indian, Wisconsin. I share their values, understand where they grew up, lived that life and understand we need a Republican Party out there providing opportunities for everyone in America, not just those on Wall Street.”

Santorum has been playing up his blue collar roots as he campaigns in Ohio and Michigan and now Arizona.

He will campaign in Tucson Wednesday ahead of the CNN debate tomorrow evening. When asked how he thinks he will do in this state when they vote Tuesday he answered: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we would do well in Arizona.”

<i>ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.</i>

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