POLITICS
03/06/2012 12:20 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2012

Rick Santorum Hints At Op-Ed Cover-Up By Mitt Romney's Campaign

In an appearance on the "Laura Ingraham Show" on Tuesday morning, Rick Santorum seemed to suggest that a controversial op-ed on health care written by Mitt Romney in 2009 had been purposefully removed from the archives of USA Today.

In the article, published as debate raged over the Affordable Care Act in 2009, Romney urged President Obama to adopt an individual mandate in his health care plan similar to the one Romney enacted in Massachusetts. Romney has repeatedly come out against the individual mandate at the national level over the course of the campaign.

Santorum's comments suggested that Romney's campaign was attempting to cover up evidence of his previous comments:

SANTORUM: I thought it was really interesting, Laura, that the USA Today op-ed was somehow removed from the archives. I don't know how that happens, but --

INGRAHAM: You think the Romney campaign had it removed?

SANTORUM: I have no idea, but I just found --

INGRAHAM: Why are you raising it?

SANTORUM: Well, because it found it odd, don't you? That somehow that particular op-ed was removed from the archives and, you know, here's a situation where Governor Romney is out there trying to make a narrative that doesn't comport with the facts and he had to know that.

The op-ed is accessible through the web archive of the former governor's old site. It's also archived "in an obscure corner" of the USA Today website for the print edition of the newspaper, according to BuzzFeed, which unearthed the 2009 piece.

Santorum claimed that the existence of the op-ed makes Romney a non-viable candidate against Obama in the fall. "The fact is Governor Romney was out there misrepresenting his position on the most important issue of this campaign, the issue of Obamacare," he told Ingraham.

"Washington insider Rick Santorum has a habit of creating distortions, exaggerations and falsehoods about Mitt Romney's record," responded Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement to The Huffington Post. "He is lashing out in a desperate attempt to prop up his sinking camapign. Four years ago, when he was speaking candidly, he said Mitt Romney would 'stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear.' In comparison, Sen. Santorum admitted he 'took one for the team' in Washington by voting against those principles. This is yet another case of Sen. Santorum abandoning principle for his own political advantage."

Later in the interview, Santorum also rejected the idea that he was obligated to speak out against Rush Limbaugh for his derogatory remarks about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. The conservative radio host sparked a major controversy last week when he called Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute" for attempting to speak in favor of birth control access at a congressional hearing.

Limbaugh has since apologized under a hail of criticism, some of which came from the right. But conservative columnist George Will bashed Republicans on Sunday for not speaking out strongly enough against Limbaugh's language. When asked by Ingraham to respond to Will's comments, Santorum clearly disagreed.

"I don't believe it's my job as someone running for public office to comment on every talk show host or any talk show host or anybody else out there on the right," he said. "If it's someone who's running for public office, yeah, I think I have a responsibility of if someone goes off the deep end and says something then yeah. But the idea that I'm now responsible for every talk show host and some outrageous statement that they make and I have to comment on it and police them? I'm not signing up for that job."

This story has been updated with comment from the Romney campaign.

Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.

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