Santorum opened first Inquirer column with falsehood

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) began his November 8 Philadelphia Inquirer column -- his first as an Inquirer columnist -- by writing: " 'Odd.' It is, indeed, odd to write a column every other Thursday for a paper that used that very word to describe me." Santorum continued: "Actually, odd was one of the nicer terms used in The Inquirer to describe me. Imagine these words next to your name in your high school yearbook -- disingenuous, snake oil peddler, smug, arrogant, chicken-livered, intolerant and fatalistic. And most of those labels were in news stories." In fact, a Nexis search revealed only two instances in which an Inquirer reporter used any of those words in a news article to describe Santorum -- one 1994 article referred to then-Senate candidate Santorum's protest to his opponent's campaign ad as "somewhat disingenuous," and a 2006 article reported that Santorum "alternated between hopeful and fatalistic" during the last week of his unsuccessful bid for re-election. Several of the other "labels" Santorum highlighted -- "snake oil peddler," "chicken-livered," "intolerant," and "odd" -- appeared either in columns or editorials. The remaining descriptors -- "smug" and "arrogant" -- appeared in news articles but were in quotation marks and were attributed to critics of Santorum.

Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch wrote in a November 23 entry to his Attytood blog that Santorum was "blatantly misleading" in his November 8 column. Bunch wrote:

The implication of what Santorum said there was clear: That the Inquirer and especially its presumably liberal reporters were out to get him. But the implication is also flat-out wrong. As several dilligent readers were quick to email me right after that column appeared, those words were either contained in quotes reported by the Inquirer or in pieces by columnists who are expected to voice strong opinions. By and large, my sources' check of Nexis showed the words were not the work of straight news reporters at all.

From Santorum's November 8 Inquirer column, titled "Rare welcome to a red-blooded conservative":

"Odd." It is, indeed, odd to write a column every other Thursday for a paper that used that very word to describe me. Actually, odd was one of the nicer terms used in The Inquirer to describe me. Imagine these words next to your name in your high school yearbook -- disingenuous, snake oil peddler, smug, arrogant, chicken-livered, intolerant and fatalistic. And most of those labels were in news stories.

My new employer also claimed not so long ago that I "inspire contempt" and "have lost my mind" and that my actions bore a remarkable resemblance to Joe McCarthy's. You know? The namesake of McCarthyism. At the time, I took solace from the implied compliment. At least The Inquirer thought I was making a substantial mark on my generation. Not bad for someone they also called a "doofus."

As regular readers of this page know, these pejoratives only scratched the surface of the contempt that this paper -- and its readers, in what seemed to me an endless stream of letters to the editor -- had for me and my performance in office.

From a November 12, 2006, Inquirer article:

It was six days before an election dominated by the Iraq war, and Santorum was talking at every turn about the "gathering storm" of rogue nations threatening America's survival.

Pundits wondered if Santorum had lost his mind.

It was actually Rick being Rick.

In the last week of his campaign, Santorum alternated between hopeful and fatalistic, liberated and trapped. He dissected his media coverage, brushed aside last-minute advice, and spent the final days of his faltering Senate campaign highlighting an unpopular war.

As a conservative in a moderate state, Santorum had always been able to mold the electorate to fit him. But in a year of Republican repudiation, cocksure and unwavering were no longer in vogue.

From an October 16, 1994, Inquirer article:

Last week, [then-Sen. Harris] Wofford [D-PA] fell in with the message pushed by the Democratic National Committee and the White House - attempting to link Santorum to the GOP "Contract with America" signed by U.S. House candidates and calling it a ticket back to the deficits of the Reagan-Bush years.

"Just when the deficit is finally going down, Rick Santorum threatens to blow it up again," the latest Wofford ad declares.

Santorum moved quickly and aggressively to point out that as a candidate for U.S. Senate, he did not sign the House contract. But his protest was somewhat disingenuous, to use one of his favorite words.

For while he didn't sign the House contract, the two-term Pittsburgh congressman did endorse the "Seven More in '94" agenda of the Republican Senate candidates. That package included a balanced-budget amendment, welfare reform, and renewed commitment to national defense.

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