Rick Santorum told a conservative crowd Saturday in Ohio that President Obama's agenda is based on a "phony theology" and not the Bible, according to Reuters. Here's what he said:
Obama's agenda is "not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology," Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.
When asked about the statement at a news conference later, Santorum said, "If the president says he's a Christian, he's a Christian."
The remarks provoked a fierce response from the White House. Via ABC News:
Obama deputy press secretary Ben LaBolt called the comments the “latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, searing pessimism and negativity — a stark contrast with the president, who is focused every day on creating jobs and restoring economic security for the middle class.”
Santorum doubled down after the pushback, insisting Sunday that his comments were not a dog-whistle to false claims about President Obama's faith but rather about the notion that he's imposing secular values on religious people. He also tried to explain it by mentioning "radical environmentalists."
Former press secretary and current White House adviser Robert Gibbs called Santorum's remarks "wrong" and "over the line."