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Rick Santorum stokes new discussion of Obama's faith

February 21, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Santorum is interviewed on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" on Monday.
Rick Santorum is interviewed on Fox News Channel's "Hannity"… (FoxNews.com )

Rick Santorum insists his new attack on President Obama's "radical environmental policies" -- which included his use of the phrase "phony theology" -- is not meant to question the president's faith.

But his and his campaign's attempts to clarify that point have only seemed to throw gas on the fire, churning up one of the most charged discussions of the 2008 race.

"Look, he went to Reverend Wright's church for 20 years," Santorum said on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" Monday night. "I mean, now you can question what kind of theology Reverend Wright has, but it's a Christian church."

Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of a Chicago church where he had worshiped, was the source of controversy throughout his initial campaign for the White House. Obama eventually broke with Wright and severed his family's ties to the Trinity United Church of Christ.

The former Pennsylvania senator continued to say that he was "not going to question the president and what the president believes in when it comes to his faith. But I am going to question what he is doing in this country, to drive up the cost of energy."

In response to friendly questioning from host Sean Hannity, Santorum argued that the media were focusing on his comments about faith and social issues even though he spends much more time on economic issues.

"I'm out there on the campaign trail talking about energy, I'm out there on the campaign talking about manufacturing jobs, I'm talking about cutting the corporate tax for all businesses," he said. "And of course, you know, they want to talk about the issues, you know, fit their narrative."

Santorum acknowledged, though, that these are issues he's often asked about at his town hall meetings. And he has no plans to "sanitize" his campaign for the sake of staying on message.

"That is not the kind of campaign that we're running. We are running something very different," he said. "Maybe we [are] in an era where you can't do that."

The question of Obama's faith emerged in another cable interview Tuesday morning. Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, notably refused to say whether he believed Obama was a Christian in response to repeated questions on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody," he said.

Asked if he thought Obama was Muslim, Graham said he could not categorically say no, "because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama."

"All I know is, under … President Obama, the Muslims -- he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries," he said.

When asked if Santorum was a Christian, however, Graham responded, "I think so."

"His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. I just appreciate the moral stances he takes on things," he said.

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