CNN cut ties this week with a prominent former Republican politician, Rick Santorum, who had drawn controversy — and created headaches for the network — by saying in a political speech last month that “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and two-time presidential candidate who had served as a paid political commentator for CNN since 2017, made the remarks at a summit held April 23 by the conservative group Young America’s Foundation.

Talking about the founding of this country, Santorum said that American settlers “birthed a nation from nothing,” and that “there was nothing here” when they arrived, ignoring the history and culture of the Native American people.

Groups that advocate for Native Americans lambasted Santorum’s comments and criticized his employer, CNN. The Native American Journalists Association, for example, called for Santorum to be fired and said that it “cautions Native American and Alaska Native reporters from working with, or applying to jobs at, CNN in the wake of continued racist comments and insensitive reporting directed at Indigenous people.”

CNN did not comment on Santorum’s remarks at the time, and did not offer public comment on the reasons for his departure Saturday beyond confirming that he no longer serves as a political commentator. (HuffPost first reported the news.)

But, a network official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter, said that Santorum had been informally “benched” after the controversy erupted, with shows choosing not to book him for appearances. As a contributor, Santorum did not have a regular, scheduled time slot, like an anchor or host would, but was invited on by individual shows to offer his thoughts.

A spokesman for Santorum, Matthew E. Beynon, did not respond to a request for comment about his departure.

But on April 26, Beynon offered a statement from the former senator. Through the intermediary, Santorum said, “I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”

Santorum had an opportunity to back off his remarks and apologize wholeheartedly during an appearance on Chris Cuomo’s prime-time show May 3. Santorum said that he “misspoke,” but his appearance did little to quiet the controversy. (“I wasn’t saying any of the things that the social media world is saying I was saying,” Santorum told Cuomo.)

“I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren’t: ‘I’m sorry, I said something ignorant,’ ” said CNN host Don Lemon, whose show follows Cuomo’s. “Did he actually think it was a good idea for him to come on television and try to whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed? It was horrible.”

“I don’t think that people thought his clarification was satisfactory,” the CNN official told The Washington Post. “That didn’t help his case, that appearance.”

While Santorum’s appearances on CNN were often panned by the network’s more liberal viewers, he provided a Republican perspective that network management sought out. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, the network hired several conservative commentators who attempted to defend the then-president’s positions, though the majority of these pundits did not last long at the network.

Santorum, for his part, seemed to relish the fight on CNN. “One of the reasons I love it there is I get a chance to go on that network, as sometimes a lone voice, but have a chance to make the case and say what I want to say,” Santorum said in a 2019 interview. “The beautiful thing about CNN is: No holds barred, I can say whatever I want to say and however I want to say it. They’ve been very good folks to work with.”