What Did Rick Santorum Say About Native Americans? Transcript of Speech

Rick Santorum's divisive remarks regarding the origins of the United States and Native American culture have prompted calls for the senior CNN political commentator and former senator to be terminated from the network.

In a speech to the Standing Up for Faith and Freedom conference last Friday, Santorum claimed the United States was built on a "blank slate," seemingly ignoring the history and culture of the country's indigenous people.

Santorum spoke about religious liberty at the event hosted by the Young America's Foundation, a conservative youth organization.

"We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here," the former GOP congressman said during one particularly polarizing part of the speech. "I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture.

CNN's Rick Santorum: "We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture" pic.twitter.com/EMxOEYDbg7

— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) April 26, 2021

"It was born of the people who came here pursuing religious liberty to practice their faith, to live as they ought to live and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty. Those are the two bulwarks of America. Faith and freedom," he went on.

Santorum added that while other countries had "changed over time," the United States had not evolved culturally since Christian settlers from Europe built America "from nothing."

A two-minute clip from the hour-long address, shared to Twitter by Jason Campbell, a researcher at Media Matters for America, has been watched more than 8 million times since it was posted on Monday.

Santorum's comments have been met with a barrage of criticism. However, in a statement to The Hill, the commentator said he had "no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture."

Transcript of Santorum's remarks on Native Americans

Read the transcript below.

"I was asked to come and talk about fighting for religious liberty. Why is religious liberty important? Well, because first if you take the two words—religious liberty—number one, religion, faith is important. There's nothing more important in life than faith. Nothing. And even if you're not a believer, a Catholic or a Christian, there's nothing more important than freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, to believe what you want to believe.

"If you think about all the other freedoms that we have in the Declaration of Independence—of speech, the right to bear arms, all those things—what do they mean if you don't have the right to believe what you want to believe? So, you can speak but you can't speak about things that you believe. You can assemble but you can't assemble about things that you believe? So, all of those other rights—I always call them sort of secondary rights—the principal right, the principal goal of America from its founding, the idea that we can pursue the good, the true and the beautiful. That we can pursue truth. That we can live our life the way God calls us to live our life.

"If you think about this country, I don't know of any other country in the world that was settled predominantly by people who were coming to practice their faith.

"They came here because they were not allowed to practice their particular faith in their own country. And so they came here, mostly from Europe, and they set up a country that was based on Judeo-Christian principles—when I say Judeo-Christian, the Mosaic Laws, 10 Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ, the morals and teachings of Jesus Christ. That's what our founding documents are based upon. It's in our DNA.

"You know, if you think of other countries, like Italy and Greece and China, 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.

"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 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, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty. Those are the two bulwarks of America. Faith and freedom. I mean, you hear it all the time about faith and freedom, faith and freedom. But it is what makes America unique in the world.

"I always say our founding document—the Declaration of Independence—says we hold these truths to be self-evident and all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That our rights come from God.

"I used to say no other country in the world has a document that says … other than Ireland, in their constitution, but other than Ireland the United States … We were born with that. We were born with that. It's in our DNA."

Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally in Menasha, Wisconsin, on April 2, 2012. The former GOP senator and congressman has come under fire for a speech claiming that the United States was built on a blank slate. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Correction 4/27/21, 5:45 a.m. ET: The headline of this article was updated to reflect this is a partial transcript of Santorum's speech.