ADL slams Santorum for 'Jesus' comment

US Republican presidential candidate criticized as "religiously exclusionist" for saying, "We always need a Jesus candidate."

rick santorum constipated 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
rick santorum constipated 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BOSTON – Jewish groups slammed Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Friday for telling listeners of a Boston radio show that “we always need a Jesus guy” in the campaign.
Santorum, formerly a Pennsylvania senator and the second-place winner of the Iowa caucus, made the remark Thursday after being asked about a listener’s comment that “we don’t need a Jesus guy this election. We need an economics guy this election.”
RELATED:
Analysis: Ron Paul leaves a big impact
Analysis: Romney struggling to attract evangelicals
Santorum says he would bomb Iran facilities
Santorum continued, “Do you stand up and say, ‘God bless America?’ Do you mean it? Are you just saying it? The idea that we don’t need someone with a moral compass, is that what we’ve come to? Is that what the Republican party is? No, it isn’t.”
The candidate, who then went on to campaign in New Hampshire, which will hold its first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, reportedly repeated the conversation later in the day, relating that he had said, “We always need a Jesus candidate.”
Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post that Santorum’s remarks were “totally inappropriate. It’s crossing the line.”
“It says to Jews, to Muslims, to Buddhists, to non-believers, you’re not part of this country,” he added.
“I think the average Jew hears it as religiously exclusionist,” National Jewish Democratic Council president David Harris said, though he added that he didn’t think Santorum had meant it that way.
“It helps remind American Jews of the yawning gap between them and today’s Republican Party,” continued Harris, whose partisan organization backs US President Barack Obama.
But Foxman pointed out that Democrats had also invoked Jesus in their campaigns in past elections, and noted Santorum has not been the only candidate in this election cycle to bring Christianity into the public conversation.
The Santorum campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
However, at a later event, he reportedly clarified his statement.
“I said we always need a Jesus candidate,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t mean necessarily that we always need a Christian, but we need someone who believes in something more than themselves.”