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Posted at 01:20 PM ET, 03/01/2012

Rick Santorum slams Mitt Romney on ‘Blunt amendment’ birth control exemption

Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) on Thursday hammered fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney for an interview Wednesday in which the former Massachusetts governor appeared to state that he did not support an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) aimed at rolling back the Obama administration’s new rules on contraception coverage.

Romney’s campaign quickly clarified after Wednesday’s interview that he did support the amendment and blamed the questioner, an Ohio
Rick Santorum poses for photos with supporters after a rally at Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday (Michael Patrick - AP)
reporter, for incorrectly phrasing a question on the topic. But that hasn’t stopped Romney’s critics – including Democrats and, now, fellow Republicans – from blasting him for the comments.

“We saw an insight into what’s in the gut of Governor Romney yesterday,” Santorum told supporters at a rally Thursday morning in Georgia. “He was asked a question about the Blunt amendment, which is about a religious liberty amendment, so not imposing Obamacare’s values on people of faith — not just churches — people of faith in this country.”

Santorum continued that “having a conscience-clause exemption used to be something that Democrats and Republicans all agreed to. Now it’s not.”

“When Gov. Romney was asked that question, his knee-jerk reaction was, ‘Oh, I can’t be for it,’ ” Santorum charged. “Well, then after his consultants talk to him, he said, ‘Well, I didn’t understand the question.’ Well, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. If I was asked that question, my gut reaction . . . would be, ‘You stand for the First Amendment; you stand for freedom of religion.’ ”


Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum (Pa.), left, and Mitt Romney. (JESSICA RINALDI)
After a campaign event in North Dakota, meanwhile, Romney reiterated his support for the amendment, which was sponsored by his own presidential campaign’s congressional liaison.

“I’m in favor of the Blunt amendment,” Romney told reporters in Fargo when asked about the amendment.

Asked to elaborate, Romney said: “Can I elaborate? Yeah, absolutely.”

But he did not elaborate on his position – perhaps taking Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly’s advice from a Wednesday night interview that Romney has “the right to remain silent.”

Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, had this to say: “Washington insider Sen. Santorum’s ‘gut reaction’ is to ‘take one for the team’ instead of standing up for what he says he believes in. Rick Santorum plays for Team Washington, while Mitt Romney’s team is the American people.”

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By and  |  01:20 PM ET, 03/01/2012

 
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