LOS ANGELES—Rick Santorum’s “war on porn” came up twice on Sunday morning talk shows, on CNN and ABC’s This Week, raised during interviews with the former Pennsylvania senator and presidential contender, who posted his position on porn to his website in a section titled, “Enforcing Laws Against Illegal Pornography.”
The position statement was publicized last week by the conservative DailyCaller.com, after which it went mainstream media-viral and is now (or at least for this week) one of the must-ask questions in a Santorum interview. In other words, the media is now driving the story, even though it would like everyone to think that Santorum is driving it.
Sunday, when the issue came up on ABC, he was obviously ready for it but still got that signature “I’ve got a little gas” expression. He did not back off the basic position, but neither did he elaborate on it. Instead, he used it to illustrate yet another failure of the Obama administration, which he claims does “not put a priority on prosecuting these cases, and in doing so they are exposing children to a tremendous amount of harm.”
But Santorum also tried to walk the issue back on This Week by stating that the position statement was added to his site because it was requested by someone, inferring that neither he nor his campaign staff put it there as one of their primary concerns. The response came in reply to a question regarding a claim made in the statement that America is suffering a “pandemic of harm” from porn, which causes “profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences.”
“What did you mean by that?” asked Jonathan Karl, subbing for George Stephanopoulos.
“Well, you know, we do something rather unusual in our campaign,” said the candidate. “When people write into our campaign and ask for our opinions on issues, we actually respond to them and post them up on the website, and that’s what happened here when someone was asking about the fact that President Obama and his Attorney General don’t enforce the existing pornography laws, and we wrote back and put it up on our website that we would of course as President enforce those laws, because obviously Congress in its wisdom understood that hardcore pornography is very damaging, particularly to young people, and that exposure on the internet can be very damaging, and of course is very damaging to a lot of folks…”
“So what do you do about it, though?” asked Karl.
“You enforce the law,” said Santorum. “There are laws against purveying hardcore pornography, and we have attorney generals in the country—at least under the Bush Administration—who did prosecute that, and this administration isn’t. And I simply said that I would follow the law, which I know in the case of Barack Obama can be somewhat of a hefty challenge for him, but we’re going to do it as President.”
Karl moved on to another subject without further comment, leaving his original question conspicuously though not surprisingly unanswered. Whether Santorum's comments provided enough red meat without pouring fuel on the more absurd claims made in the position statement remains to be seen, but one would have to assume that no matter where this issue goes during the rest of the campaign, no one in the Santorum camp wants to have an extended debate on the science behind the claim that porn causes profoundly negative changes to the brain.