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Karen Santorum: Gay Activists Have 'Vilified' My Husband Karen Santorum: Gay Activists Have 'Vilified' My Husband

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field

Campaign 2012

Karen Santorum: Gay Activists Have 'Vilified' My Husband

Candidate's wife says 'Rick doesn't hate anyone. He loves them.'

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Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, right, is embraced by his wife Karen as he speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition rally Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, in Myrtle Beach, S.C.(AP Photo/David Goldman)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.--Karen Santorum, wife of socially conservative Republican candidate Rick Santorum, offered an emotional defense Monday of her husband’s controversial views on gay marriage to a woman whose son is gay.
 
“As Rick’s wife, I have known him and loved him for 22 years,” Karen Santorum said. “It makes me very sad what the gay activists have done out there. They’ve vilified him. And it’s so wrong.”
 
“Rick doesn’t hate anyone,” she continued. “He loves them. What he has simply said is marriage shouldn’t happen" between them.
 
Karen Santorum was answering a question from a Greenville woman who said she had backed Santorum since he announced his presidential candidacy, but felt conflicted because her youngest son was gay.

“What he’s been hearing is ‘Oh, Rick Santorum hates gays,” the woman said. “How do I deal with that?” She added that her son didn’t want marriage rights either and had no problem with her support of Santorum, but that she felt guilty nonetheless.
 
Rick Santorum said his views on marriage are not meant to be hateful or bigoted, as many have perceived them. “This is public policy difference and the problem is some see that public policy difference as a personal assault,” he said.
 
The Santorums were appearing at a forum moderated by Republican strategist Frank Luntz and organized by CafeMoms, a website and online meeting place for mothers. At a similar event in Iowa, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich shed tears talking about his late mother.

During their hour-long session, the Santorums touched on family issues such as campaigning with seven children and caring for a child with special needs, giving the TV cameras and the women in the room an inside glimpse into their marriage and relationship. Although Karen Santorum has been at her husband’s side at nearly every campaign stop in South Carolina, it was the first time she had spoken at length in public since his unexpected rise in Iowa.

Karen Santorum also became emotional talking about the dark days and weeks after their youngest daughter, three-year-old Bella, was diagnosed with trisomy 18, a genetic disorder related to Down’s syndrome with a short life expectancy.
 
“It was a really hard time,” she said, breaking into tears. “We weren’t expecting it. We had lost a baby so that’s all I could think about--I can’t go through his again. I was very angry. “
 
“Rick was a little different… he had to be the rock, the strong guy. I was totally falling apart.”
 
Santorum frequently talks about Bella and the loss of his infant son, Gabriel, when explaining his adamantly anti-abortion views. He delved into more detail at this forum, telling the audience how the family had birthday parties for Bella every day after she was first born—then grew confident enough to have one every week, and then once every month.
 
“He just melts when he’s with her,” Karen Santorum said.

 

Correction: This story initially referred to an Iowa event has having occurred in New Hampshire.

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