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Santorum Gaffes and Media Speculation

Did the Santorum campaign team call President Obama an “Islamic extremist” and “Hitler”? Based on the media coverage during the weekend, you’d think so. Of course, neither of the charges actually check out. Rick Santorum denies he compared Obama to Hitler during a recent speech, and based on the text it sounds like he may have just been making a WWII reference. Meanwhile, Santorum’s aide says she accidentally called Obama’s policies “radical Islamic” when she really meant “radical environmental” – and from the context, her excuse actually does makes sense.

But unfortunately for the Santorum campaign, the gaffes still provided tons of fodder for media speculation:

Rick Santorum on Monday denied he was comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler while using a World War II analogy the previous day.

During a speech at a Georgia church on Sunday, Santorum paralleled the election to America’s slow response to the swelling Nazi presence during the late 1930s. He urged his audience to get involved and not sit on the sidelines like “the greatest generation” did for a year and a half while “Europe was under darkness.”

Also:

Rick Santorum’s spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in a TV interview on Monday that Santorum was referring to President Barack Obama’s “radical Islamic policies” when he said the president’s agenda was driven by “phony theology” — but then quickly called up MSNBC after the segment aired to say she misspoke.

“There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has,” Stewart said on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

Mitchell later said on the air that Stewart phoned the show after the interview to say she had slipped up and said “radical Islamic policies” instead of Obama’s “radical environmental policies.”

No matter what the campaign may have meant to say, both stories play into the media perception of Santorum. He’s the conservative Tea Party candidate, and as we saw from 2009, the media thinks the Tea Party equates Obama to Hitler and believes he’s a secret Muslim.

Even though these allegations against the Tea Party have been largely debunked, the smears never went away entirely. Once the story is out, it’s hard to get rid of the perception. The same may go for this one. Now for the rest of eternity we’ll have to read in every liberal outlet from the Huffington Post to TPM that Santorum “once likened President Obama to Adolf Hitler” and “insinuated Obama is a Muslim extremist.” All thanks to a few unforced errors.