February 12, 2012, 1:57 pm
Santorum on the Defensive Over Gender RemarksBy BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON — Only days after having to explain a comment about women and emotions in combat, Rick Santorum seemed to struggle a bit on Sunday to explain a remark in his 2005 book “It Takes a Family” that blamed “radical feminists” for undermining families and for trying to persuade women that they could find fulfillment only in the workplace.
Asked on the ABC News program “This Week” about the book’s contentions, Mr. Santorum noted that his wife, Karen, had written that section — though only his name is on the cover and he does not list her in the acknowledgments as among those “who assisted me in the writing of this book.” He said that when Mrs. Santorum, a nurse and a lawyer, had quit working to raise the couple’s children, she felt that many people “looked down their nose at that decision.”
“Sadly, the propaganda campaign launched in the 1960s has taken root,” Mr. Santorum (or his wife) wrote in the book. “The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.”
In the interview on Sunday, Mr. Santorum pleaded unfamiliarity with the citation, saying, “I don’t know – that’s a new quote for me,” before adding that “the bottom line is that people should have equal opportunity to rise in the work force.”
The criticism should not have come as a surprise to Mr. Santorum. The book was also sharply debated during his unsuccessful bid for re-election as a senator from Pennsylvania, drawing pointed criticism from women’s groups and Democratic officials.
Mr. Santorum argued in the book that many problems facing the poor could be solved by building stronger families and communities, including by making divorce more difficult and providing fatherhood training programs.
His fundamental point, he said on Sunday, was that there should be a strong “affirmation of whatever decision women decide to make.”
Mr. Santorum had faced a brief storm of criticism after saying on Thursday in a CNN interview that to put more women in combat roles “could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”
He managed to quell some of the criticism – if not all – by saying later that he was referring to the emotional reactions of male soldiers. “Men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way,” he told NBC News on Friday, adding that “the natural inclination” is “to not focus on the mission but to try to be in a position where you might want to protect someone.”
There is another reason that Mr. Santorum should not have been surprised on Sunday: the interviewer posing the questions, George Stephanopoulos, had asked him about the same quote in 2005 and challenged him to identify the feminists who were pressuring women to enter the work force:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I’m asking you. Where are these radical feminists?
SANTORUM: It comes from an elite culture, dictated, again, from academia, dictated, again, from the Hollywood culture and the news media, that says, the only thing that’s affirming, the only thing that really counts is what you do at work. And that goes for men and women. And it’s wrong. It’s wrong to tell that to fathers. It’s wrong to tell that to mothers. And we need to value mothers and fathers spending time with their children much more than we do in America.