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Schieffer Spins Santorum's 'Theology' Remark; Crawford All But Calls Schieffer Out

On Sunday's Face the Nation, CBS's Bob Schieffer interrogated Rick Santorum over his offensive against President Obama, particularly over the Republican candidate's "theology" attack on the President's environmental policies. Schieffer seemed to channel a certain former MSNBC anchor when he asked, "I've got to ask you, what in the world were you talking about, sir?" [audio clips available here ]

The anchor led his program with an outline of his criticism of Santorum, focusing on three recent comments from the GOP presidential candidate: "Did you hear what Rick Santorum said?...In one twenty-four-hour-period, he questioned the President's religious beliefs....said prenatal testing is really just the President's way to reduce costs in taking care of the disabled....and questioned the value of public schools....We'll ask him about all of it this morning..."

Just under a day later, on Monday's CBS This Morning, political correspondent Jan Crawford pointed out how both the media and the Obama campaign misconstrued the former Pennsylvania senator's remark:

CRAWFORD: Over the weekend, for the first time, the [Obama] campaign took direct aim at that new frontrunner, Santorum- hitting him hard for something he didn't really even say....many in the media reported that Santorum was somehow suggesting the President wasn't a Christian, and the Obama campaign, trying to typecast Santorum as an extremist, pounced.....On 'Face the Nation' Sunday, Santorum said he wasn't talking about Obama's religious faith, but his liberal ideology.

Once Santorum answered Schieffer's initial "sir" question, the veteran anchor pressed ahead and asked, "How does that translate into some sort of theology that the President's theology is not based on the Bible? I mean, that suggests that he's not a Christian." The Republican replied, in part, that he "wasn't suggesting that President's not a Christian," and attacked the Democrat's left-wing environmental policy as "an attempt...to centralize power and to give more power to the government." The CBS journalist, however, came back and claimed that the candidate's "use of the word 'theology,' perhaps...might lead some people to suggest that you were questioning the President's faith."

Later in the interview, Schieffer ripped Santorum's criticism of ObamaCare's mandate for prenatal testing: "Senator, do you not want any kind of prenatal testing? I mean, would we just turn our back on science that this is something that expectant mothers should not go through, that it's best not to know about these things ahead of time? I mean is that what you're saying here?"

When the former senator pointed out that some prenatal testing are "used for the purposes of identifying children who are disabled, and in most cases, end up as a result with abortions," the CBS host followed up by asking, "you're not saying that the cause of this, that the President looks down on disabled people, are you? You're not accusing him of that?" Santorum answered by spotlighting the President's own record from before 2008:

SANTORUM: Well, the President supported partial birth abortion, and partial birth abortion is a procedure used almost exclusively to kill children late in pregnancy when they've been found out to be disabled. The President voted for a provision that said that children born alive as a result of abortions late in pregnancy who were otherwise viable should be allowed to be killed by the doctor. I think the President has a very bad record on the issue of abortion and children who are disabled who are in the womb, and I think this simply is a continuation of that idea.

Bob Schieffer, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgDuring the last part of the segment, Schieffer pursued Santorum over his attack on the current public education system. He condescendingly asked, "Are you saying that we shouldn't have public schools now? I mean I thought public schools were the foundation of American democracy." He also raised how "there are little communities where the people couldn't afford to have a public school, and that's why you have states involved in the schools."

Over a month earlier, Schieffer slammed another Republican presidential candidate- Mitt Romney- for the much-publicized "I liked to fire people" remark, and added, "I guess the only thing worse you could say...when people are out of work is that Herbert Hoover is my hero or something like that. It just boggles the mind." At that time, Crawford also pointed out that that Romney's sentence was being "taken completely out of context" by several of his GOP competitors.

The transcript of Bob Schieffer's questions to Rick Santorum on Sunday's Face The Nation, including some of Santorum's answers for context, and Schieffer's lede for the program:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on 'Face The Nation,' did you hear what Rick Santorum said? He's the man of the hour in Republican politics, and he's with us this morning. The latest leader in the Republican race [is] at the top of the national polls, and even in Michigan, where Mitt Romney grew up. Yesterday, he was feeling his oats. In one twenty-four-hour-period, he questioned the President's religious beliefs-

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology, oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.

SCHIEFFER: Said prenatal testing is really just the President's way to reduce costs in taking care of the disabled-

SANTORUM: Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.

SCHIEFFER: And questioned the value of public schools-

SANTORUM: But the idea that the federal government should be running schools frankly much less that the state government should be running schools is anachronistic.

SCHIEFFER: We'll ask him about all of it this morning, then check in with our round table of Norah O'Donnell and John Dickerson, plus Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Todd Spangler of The Detroit Free Press.


SCHIEFFER: You are the leader in the polls this morning, and I have to say, you were very busy yesterday. The Associated Press led its story of your appearance in Columbus, Ohio, by saying- quote, 'Rick Santorum questioned Barack Obama's Christian values.' That was after you lashed out at the President's proposal on energy of all things when you said this.

SANTORUM (from campaign event): It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology- oh, not a theology based on the Bible- a different theology. (audience applauds)

SCHIEFFER: So, Senator, I've got to ask you, what in the world were you talking about, sir?


SCHIEFFER: Well, how does that translate into some sort of theology that the President's theology is not based on the Bible? I mean, that suggests that he's not a Christian.

SCHIEFFER: I don't want to just spend the whole program on this, but was your use of the word theology, perhaps, you could have had a better word than that? I mean, don't you know that or do you wonder that that might lead some people to suggest that you were questioning the President's faith?


SCHIEFFER: At another stop in Columbus, you took on the President on prenatal care for expectant mothers. Here's what you said at this- in this passage.

SANTORUM: One of the things that you don't know about ObamaCare and one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions, and therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, I have to ask you to give some explanation of that. You sound like you're saying that the purpose of prenatal care is to cause people to have abortions, to get more abortions in this country. I think there are any number testing, I think any number of people would say that's not the purpose at all.


SCHIEFFER: Well, I know you know what you're talking about. I know that well. I know you also had another child that was stillborn. But didn't you want to know about that, just a minute. Just hold on.

SANTORUM: But what my child was not stillborn. My child was born alive.

SCHIEFFER: All right-

SANTORUM: And he lived two hours.

SCHIEFFER: All right.


SCHIEFFER: I stand corrected on the stillborn. You're absolutely right. I simply misspoke. But, Senator, do you not want any kind of prenatal testing? I mean, would we just turn our back on science that this is something that expectant mothers should not go through, that it's best not to know about these things ahead of time? I mean is that what you're saying here?

SCHIEFFER: You're not saying- let me just ask you- you're not saying that the cause of this, that the President looks down on disabled people, are you? You're not accusing him of that?


SCHIEFFER: Well, since you brought all this up, I just wanted to make sure that everybody had a clear understanding of exactly what you meant and how you feel about this. Another thing that raised a few eyebrows yesterday, Senator, you questioned the value of all things at the public school system. Now here's what you said about that.

SANTORUM (from campaign event): But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly, much less that the state government should be running schools is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home school or have the little neighborhood school and into these big factories. So we built equal factories called public schools.

SCHIEFFER: So, there you are, Senator. I mean, are you saying that we shouldn't have public schools now? I mean I thought public schools were the foundation of American democracy.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, Senator, if everybody could afford to home school their children that would be one thing but-

SANTORUM: I'm not talking about home schooling. I'm talking about public education, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, there are little communities where the people couldn't afford to have a public school, and that's why you have states involved in the schools.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what would you do to fix it, Senator?

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.