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Native American groups have joined growing calls for CNN to remove contributor Rick Santorum from the network, after he claimed “there was nothing here” when European colonisers “birthed a nation from nothing” upon arriving in what would become the United States.
He also said “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
The former Republican senator and presidential candidate’s widely condemned remarks at a right-wing student conference on 23 April have prompted the National Congress of American Indians, the Native America Journalists Association and other Indigenous groups, among other organisations and outrage across social media, urging CNN to fire the network’s political commentator.
“We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing,” he said in a speech to the Young America’s Foundation Standing Up For Faith & Freedom conference in Pennsylvania last week.
Mr Santorum added: “I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here pursuing religious liberty to practise their faith, to live as they ought to live, and have the freedom to do so. Religious liberty. Those are the two bulwarks of America. Faith and freedom. I mean, you hear it all the time about faith and freedom, faith and freedom. But it is what makes America unique in the world.”
In a statement, National Congress of American Indians president Fawn Sharp called Mr Santorum “an unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform.”
The organisation is the nation’s largest representing Native American and Alaska Native groups.
“Televising someone with his views on Native American genocide is fundamentally no different than putting an outright Nazi on television to justify the Holocaust,” she said. “Any mainstream media organisation should fire him or face a boycott from more than 500 Tribal Nations and our allies from across the country and worldwide.”
The Native American Journalists Association called on CNN to “immediately dismiss” Mr Santorum from the network and warned 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,” including Mr Santorum’s recent remarks.
Crystal Echo Hawk, director of IllumiNative, which seeks to combat the erasure of Native history, said “CNN must do more to include Indigenous and diverse voices in its programming and fire Rick Santorum.”
“CNN should not give Mr Santorum a national platform where he can spew this type of ignorance and bigotry against communities of colour on air,” she said in a statement on Monday. “Allowing him to spread racism and white supremacy to the American public is reckless and irresponsible.”
In a one-sentence statement to The Independent, Mr Santorum said: “I had no intention of minimising or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”
CNN has not responded to The Independent’s requests for comment.
The Young America’s Foundation has also not responded to a request for comment.