Politics

Rick Santorum Lashes Out At Bill Clinton: ‘What Kind Of Darkness Do You Have In You?’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

In a somber interview with The Daily Caller, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum lashed out at Bill Clinton for recently revealed remarks the former president apparently made in 1997 about the death of the former Pennsylvania senator’s newborn son.

“What kind of darkness do you have in you?” Santorum said Monday by phone. “That you can attack people at their most painful time. That’s the thing that’s the most upsetting about that. What kind of person does that? What person thinks that?”

For years, Santorum has spoken publicly of the death of his son Gabriel, who died just hours after being born in 1996.

But last week, the Washington Free Beacon published a story about Clinton friend and biographer Taylor Branch once saying Clinton made a “cryptic” comment to him in 1997 suggesting the famously pro-life Santorums had secretly aborted their child.

Santorum says he was initially unsure about whether he wanted to say anything about Clinton’s reported comments when the story came out.

“I’ve thought long and hard about whether I did want to talk about it, to be honest with you,” he said. “When the story came out, it was like, do I really want to go down this road and deal with revisiting all of this? Here’s a situation where a family is going through the most painful of things you can go through.”

He added: “To take that moment and put it in a context of some sort of twisted political game, that’s just really disturbing. And I felt like that that maybe provided some insight as to that world in which Bill and Hillary Clinton live.”

The Free Beacon obtained audio from Branch’s 1997 diary following a private meeting with the president. The recording from the tape recorder does not include Clinton’s voice or direct quotations, just Branch’s post-interview recollections.

According to the audio, Branch recorded himself saying of Clinton: “He said something cryptic about Santorum … He said, ‘Their child died a few hours after delivery.’ Then he said, ‘One day he’ll be found out.’ And I took that to be … basically he would be found out, you know, as an airhead. But in retrospect, after he said that cryptic remark about his wife, I wondered if what he was saying was that he would be found out that what they said was actually an infant death was instead really an abortion. That they had an abortion and then said that the baby died shortly after birth as a way of covering it. I don’t know if that’s what he was saying. He was not very explicit about it.”

After listening to the audio, Santorum says he is confident Clinton was referencing the abortion rumor. Opponents, he said, had been spreading it.

“I have no doubt whatsoever,” Santorum said, “if Branch is accurately recalling what the president said. And again, I don’t have the tapes, I only have the tape of the tape, if you will. But it was something, unfortunately, that was out there at the time.”

The Republican recalled how the Philadelphia Inquirer once published a story that may have fueled the rumors, which have popped up during Santorum’s political campaigns.

“Here, we had just gone to extreme measures, intrauterine surgery, in Philadelphia, mind you, and gone through the process of doing everything you can to save your son. The prognosis was he was going to die if we did nothing. So we did everything we could and then the Inquirer puts out the story that we killed our son,” Santorum said.

Talking about that newspaper story, Santorum said: “When you talk about salt in the wound, it’s a blow torch to a wound. And at the time you’re grieving, they put something like that out. And of course, your political enemies pounce on that, right? And that’s what was the most disturbing thing.”

During an appearance in Iowa last month, Santorum told the story about his son: “I’ll never forget the sonographer going over Karen’s abdomen and looking up to us and saying your child has a fatal defect and is going to die.”

“We did everything we could,” he said at the the 2015 Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines. “We resolved that we would not lose our son. We had intrauterine surgery. Something very experimental and it worked. Except three days later, Karen got an infection and he was delivered at 21 weeks. We were blessed he was born alive. And we had the opportunity to hold him for two hours in which he knew only love. And then he passed in our arms.”

Asked by TheDC if he knew before the Free Beacon story that Clinton may have spread the rumor, Santorum said: “I had no idea.”

“To see a president pick up that and harbor those feelings was very hurtful.”

The Clinton Foundation has not responded to a request for comment.

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