Native Americans Urge CNN to Fire Rick Santorum Over 'Blank Slate' Comments

A number of Native Americans have expressed their anger at former senator and CNN commentator Rick Santorum, over his comments suggesting that European colonists who arrived in America "birthed a nation from nothing."

There are calls for Santorum to be dismissed from CNN over remarks he made during a speech at the conservative Young America's Foundation's summit

"If you think of other countries like Italy and Greece and China and Turkey and places like that, they've all sort of changed over time. I mean, they've been there for millennia in many cases. And their culture has sort of evolved over time, but not us," Santorum said.

"We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly that—there isn't much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here, pursuing religious liberty to practice their faith."

The remarks ignored more than 6,000 years of Native American history prior to the arrival of European colonists, and were met with outrage from prominent Native American figures and organizations.

"The erasure of Native people and histories—which existed before and survived in spite of a white supremacist empire—is a foundational sin of a make-believe nation," tweeted Native American activist and podcast host Nick Estes.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), chair of the House subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, tweeted: "Indigenous peoples are more American than Rick Santorum."

Not much Native culture in American culture...could that be because of America’s colonial genocide, cultural genocide, displacement, systematic erasure and dehumanization of Native peoples?

We’re still here. We aren’t “nothing”, we’re why you’re on this land. Read a book. https://t.co/stHyjObIkH

— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@zhaabowekwe) April 26, 2021

For years, he’s displayed ignorance and bigotry towards communities of color, against the LBGTQ community, and women. This is just another example. @CNN giving Rick Santorum a platform to spread his ignorance and racism is a mistake. #RemoveRick

— IllumiNative (@_IllumiNatives) April 26, 2021

In a lengthy statement, National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp accused Santorum of being an "unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform."

"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. Make your choice. Do you stand with White Supremacists justifying Native American genocide, or do you stand with Native Americans?"

Sharp added that Native Americans contributions to American culture included teaching how to utilize and grow such plants as cotton, rubber, chocolate, corn, potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco—which contributed greatly to the country's economy—as well as environmentalism, which Sharp described as "arguably the single most important philosophical development of human history."

"The very concept of man as but one animal within a complex ecosystem, needing to live in harmony with nature and sustainably use natural resources," Sharp added. "No idea is more fundamentally Native American and more explicitly spread by Native American peoples. There would be no National Park system without Native American influence.

The Native American Journalists Association also called for CNN to immediately dismiss Santorum. The group accused the network of "continued racist comments and insensitive reporting" directed at Indigenous people, including recently incorrectly identifying Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, as a white woman.

"With a lack of accountability or ethics around multiple racist and insensitive comments from CNN staff, the Native American Journalists Association urges its members to avoid working with the network to avoid harassment and racism," the group said in a statement.

"NAJA also calls on advertisers, funders and journalism diversity organizations to withdraw their support from CNN indefinitely."

In a statement to media outlets, Santorum said: "I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture."

CNN has been contacted for comment.

Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum arrives for a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. Santorum has sparked outrage among Native Americans after claiming European colonists who came to America “birthed a nation from nothing." KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images