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Rick Santorum says use of profanity was justified

Rick Santorum used the cuss word during an exchange with reporter Jeff Zeleny after a speech at the South Hill Country Club in Franksville, Wis.

AP/Journal Times, Gregory Shaver

Rick Santorum used the cuss word during an exchange with reporter Jeff Zeleny after a speech at the South Hill Country Club in Franksville, Wis.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is not backing off his use of a swear word directed at a reporter Sunday night, likening the episode to standing up to a bully. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s campaign is characterizing Santorum as “increasingly shrill.’’

“I criticized Romney and [President] Obama for their outrageous health care legislation,’’ Santorum wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “Predictably, I was aggressively attacked by a New York Times reporter all too ready to defend the two of them, and all too ready to distort my words. Let me assure you, I didn’t back down, and I didn’t let him bully me.’’

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Santorum used the cuss word during an exchange with reporter Jeff Zeleny after a speech at the South Hill Country Club in Franksville, Wis. “I said, ‘Do you think that Mitt Romney is really the worst Republican in the country to run against Obama?’ - which is what he said,’’ Zeleny recounted on CNN. “And he said, ‘I didn’t say that. You guys are distorting what I’m saying. . . . Quit distorting my words. It’s bull[expletive].’ ’’

Santorum offered a similar account Monday to Fox News: “I just said, ‘OK, I’ve had enough of this you-know-what.’ ’’

Zeleny’s question was based on a statement the former Pennsylvania senator made during his address at the country club.

“Why would we put someone up who is uniquely - pick any other Republican in the country - he is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.’’

Santorum made a similar comment earlier during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’

“We want someone who can win,’’ Santorum said, “someone who can go up against Barack Obama and actually draw a contrast on the big issues of the day, like health care and on energy, where Governor Romney has just been dead wrong on those issues for years and years and years, and would be probably the worst candidate for us to nominate to go after Barack Obama on gas prices and on government takeover and health care.’’

Santorum contended that Zeleny’s question took the “worst candidate’’ label out of its proper context - within a conversation about health care.

The Romney campaign responded to Santorum Monday in an e-mail to the Globe.

“Senator Santorum is becoming increasingly shrill as his campaign hopes fade,’’ Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. “It’s important that all Republicans keep their focus on President Obama because if we want to repeal Obamacare, we need to defeat him first.’’ — CALLUM BORCHERS

President’s top donors get a White House reward

WASHINGTON - President Obama is using privileged access to one of America’s greatest landmarks to reward his most generous financial supporters in ways that Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum cannot match: More than 60 of Obama’s biggest campaign donors have visited the White House more than once for meetings with top advisers, holiday parties, or state dinners, a review by the Associated Press has found.

The invitations to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., which are a legal and established practice by presidents, came despite Obama’s past criticisms of Washington’s pay-for-access privileges and mark a reversal from early in the president’s term when donors complained he was keeping them at arm’s length.

As a candidate running against Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s campaign noted that Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had invited David Geffen - whom Obama’s campaign said had raised $18 million for the Clintons - to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. The AP found no evidence of Obama’s own donors sleeping overnight in the White House. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

AFL-CIO urges Romney to remove labor adviser

WASHINGTON - The AFL-CIO is calling on GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to dismiss a labor adviser linked to an ethics investigation at the National Labor Relations Board.

The AFL-CIO says Peter Schaumber, a former Republican member of the NLRB, used his connections to obtain inside information from a current board member. Schaumber is not accused of wrongdoing. But the agency’s inspector general says board member Terence Flynn violated ethics rules by leaking details of internal board deliberations to Schaumber. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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