In the only network morning show interview with Rick Santorum in the wake of his three-state victory on Tuesday, NBC Today co-host Ann Curry on Friday pestered the former Pennsylvania senator on whether he would "commit" not to do any negative campaigning and attempted to portray his recent comments on women serving in military combat roles as a gaffe.
Curry put this question to Santorum early in the interview: "...it is clear that negative campaigning generates votes....aren't you going to now have to go negative? Will you commit that your – you and your PACs will not? Or are you going to have to now?"
As Santorum began to respond and say his focus would be on issues, Curry interrupted him: "But Senator, I'm asking you – I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I'm asking about whether or not you will go negative. Do you – have you made a decision about that? Have you decided you absolutely will not? Can you commit to that now or will you have to? Do you want this nomination enough to do that if you have to?"
Santorum reiterated that he would not be "personally attacking people," but continue to talk about issues and the records of his opponents. Curry still refused to move on: "You're clearly animated when you talk about this. So are you prepared now to commit to not going negative? Can you say that, answer that question yes or no?"
When Curry finally decided to switch to a new topic, it was to suggest Santorum had said something offensive about women serving in the military:
One of the things that you were asked last night on CNN as an issue that Americans care about, and you were asked about the Pentagon's plan to allow women to serve in more combat roles. And you had some concerns about this and you said, quote, "It could be very compromising" – excuse me – "It could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved." What do you mean by that? Do you want to take another crack at that?
Santorum explained his completely noncontroversial comments: "Well, no, I – exactly what I said. I think there's – when you have men and women together in combat I think there's – men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way....the natural inclination to not focus on the mission but to try to be in a position where you might want to protect someone..." In other words, chivalry.
Curry then revealed how she had misinterpreted the comments: "Some people might listen to that quote and think you meant that you were concerned about women being emotional." Santorum replied: "Oh, no. No, that's not the issue. That's never – I mean, I've talked about this issue a lot and I've never raised that as a concern."
Completely absent from the interview was a single question about Santorum's outspoken criticism of President Obama over the ObamaCare contraception mandate. Interestingly, in a news report just prior to the interview, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell noted: "Rick Santorum, fresh off his three wins and his largest crowd, about 4,000 at Oral Roberts University. A Christian school where Santorum pounded away again at the White House for its battle over contraception coverage with the Church."
On Tuesday, Today brought on left-wing MSNBC host and feminist activist Rachel Maddow to voice her support for the intrusive Obama policy and denounce the "far-right perspective" that objected to the attack on freedom of religion.
The show has yet to bring on a single Catholic Church official or Republican critic to discuss the topic.