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Foster Friess, Santorum backer, jokes about using aspirin as birth control

at 02:38 PM ET, 02/16/2012

Foster Friess, the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, appeared on MSNBC Thursday to argue that social issues are largely irrelevant.

If he wanted to take focus away from Santorum's recent remarks about birth control and premarital sex, however, he didn’t succeed.

“This contraception thing, my gosh, it's so inexpensive,” Friess told host Andrea Mitchell. “You know, back in my days, they'd use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.”

Mitchell was visibly taken aback. “Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly” she said after a few seconds. “Let’s change the subject.” (She said via Twitter that she is “still trying to get my head around” the comment and asked her followers how she should have responded.

The comment comes on the same day that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a panel on birth-control prescription coverage with all-male witnesses.

Donors, obviously, don’t speak for their candidates. In fact, this clip serves as a good warning to other politicians to keep wealthy backers behind the scenes.

But given Santorum’s own controversial comments about contraception, this odd, out-of-touch remark keeps the topic in the spotlight for the candidate at a time when he is trying to downplay his social conservatism.

Update: Santorum responded in an interview with Fox News’ Greta van Susteren Thursday night.

“Foster is known in political circles as telling a lot of jokes, and some of them are not particularly funny, which this one was not. He’s not creepy. He’s a good man,” the candidate said. “You know, he told a — he told a bad, off-color joke, and he shouldn’t have done it. ... It was a stupid joke.”

Santorum added that he has a “consistent record on this of supporting women’s right to have contraception.”

While Santorum believes contraception should be legal, he also thinks individual states should have the right to ban it (contra the Supreme Court).

Friess, for his part, wrote on his blog that the comment was just an old joke from before the invention of the Pill. He apologized to anyone who took it seriously (but not to those who were offended by what they saw as an inappropriate joke.)

“I can understand how I confused people with the way I worded the joke and their taking offense is very understandable,” he said. “To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness.”

He added that his wife “understood the joke but didn’t like it anyway — so I will keep that old one in the past where it belongs.”

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