Santorum said Obama could have brought the country together but instead he increased racism in part by his response to police shootings.
Santorum made the accusations during a heated State of the Union panel discussion about racism on CNN Sunday.
The panel discussed a new book written by a former Obama adviser who quoted Obama saying “What if we were wrong” about what the American people wanted from a president.
“Maybe we pushed too far,” Obama said. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”
Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser and national spokeswoman for MoveOn.org, said it was “pretty horrific” to see voters rally behind Trump during the 2016 election.
“There was an uproar. You saw the Tea Party. You saw obstruction by Republicans time and time again,” Jean-Pierre said. “It is kind of problematic. It says a lot about this country, and Donald Trump tapped into it.”
Jean-Pierre, who worked on both of Obama’s presidential election campaigns and served in his administration, said Trump’s campaign received a boost from “birthism,” the belief that Obama was born in Africa, not the United States.
Santorum added that Obama played a part in increasing racism that helped elect Trump to office.
“What’s being ignored here is the role that Barack Obama played in all this,” Santorum said. “You can’t just go from ‘well, we elected our first black president’ and ‘all of a sudden we get Donald Trump.’ There was something in between those two things.”
According to Santorum, “many, many, many people” saw Obama being racist himself, particularly after police shootings involving white cops killing unarmed black men.
“Every time there was a controversy with someone of color involved, he took the side, many times, against the police,” Santorum said. “He did it over and over and over again.”
Santorum added that Obama was “someone who could’ve brought this country together” but failed to do so.
Jean-Pierre, who sat beside Santorum on the panel, defended Obama, saying the few instances when Obama did speak up after police shootings he was standing up for people who had been unjustifiably treated.
She asked Santorum if he was referring to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but time was running out and the panel discussion ended.
Santorum got the last word in, saying, “This president could’ve [brought us] together. He didn’t. He divided us.”