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WASHINGTON — The head of the National Urban League said Tuesday that Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum tried to leverage a stereotype about black people and public assistance programs to gain an advantage in the Iowa caucuses.

Urban League President Marc Morial called on other GOP candidates to repudiate Santorum’s comments, which were made as he campaigned Sunday in Sioux City, Iowa.

Videos posted on several websites show Santorum discussing programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, then saying: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

Morial said Santorum made the statements to pander to racist elements in the electorate and should be ashamed.

Santorum’s spokesman did not immediately return telephone calls and emails Tuesday seeking comment.

But Santorum addressed the comment during an interview Monday with CBS News, telling the network that he had seen the quotation but didn’t know the context of the statement.

“If you look at what I’ve been saying, I’ve been pretty clear about my concern for dependency in this country and concern for people not being more dependent on our government, whatever their race or ethnicity is,” Santorum said in the interview.

Morial pointed out that 84 percent of food stamp recipients in Iowa are white. Nationally, 70 percent of recipients are white, he said. Many people who receive public aid contributed to those programs as workers, Morial said.

“By falsely suggesting that people of color are a disproportionate drain on resources provided mainly by whites, Santorum deliberately fans the flames of racial divisiveness,” Morial said.

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