White House stands by Santorum

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 26 2003 12:00 AM ET

The White House issued a statement Friday saying that Republican U.S. senator Rick Santorum is doing a good job as party leader and is "an inclusive man," despite his recent controversial remarks about homosexuality. "The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" and in his Senate GOP leadership post as the third-highest-ranking Republican, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

In an April 7 interview with the Associated Press, Santorum, Pennsylavnia's junior senator, compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. He also said the right to privacy is not covered in the Constitution.

"The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes," Fleischer said. The White House expressed confidence in the leadership of Republican senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) in the immediate aftermath of his defense of a 1948 pro-segregation presidential ticket. As the backlash against Lott's remarks grew, however, Bush admonished Lott for his remarks and said it was up to the Senate to decide whether he should remain as majority leader. Lott resigned soon after. About Santorum, Fleischer said the Senate picks its leaders.

On Thursday more than 300 people gathered outside Santorum's Philadelphia office to protest the senator's comments. "Santorum has shown himself to be intellectually unfit for his position of leadership in the U.S. Senate," said Mike Marsico, cochairman of Liberty City Democratic Club, the gay political group that organized the protest. "Not only are we calling on the Republican leadership to denounce his comments but to demote his position in Congress."

Republican senators Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia Snowe of Maine have also taken issue with Santorum's remarks. "I thought his choice of comparisons was unfortunate, and the premise that the right of privacy does not exist--just plain wrong," Chafee said in a statement Thursday. "Senator Santorum's views are not held by this Republican and many others in our party." On Wednesday Snowe said Santorum's comments "undermine Republican principles of inclusion and opportunity."