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Santorum Defends Outburst over Romney as ‘Worst Republican’ on Health Care

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Santorum, asked about the heated confrontation he had with New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny over Mitt Romney’s fitness for the Republican nomination, said Monday he had no regrets about how it was handled.

“This is the third time I was asked that question in a matter of four minutes,” Santorum said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “There was a whole gaggle of reporters, literally five feet away, and he -- and he was standing there. I’m sure -- I mean, I don’t know he was standing. I assume he was standing there. Everyone was sort of standing in a group. There was a large group there. I was asked that question. I was asked it again. And then he comes over and he says, ‘So Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country.’ That’s what he said. Listen to his words. And I think, what speech did you listen to? I mean, I was talking about Obamacare, Romneycare and the fact that, as I said, that Gov. Romney is uniquely disqualified to make the case. Why? Because he wrote the blueprint for Obamacare. And to then say, you know, spin this as Rick Santorum said he’s the worst Republican in the country.”

Santorum continued to insist that reporters were distorting his words and ignoring his argument that Romney, having championed a health care law when he was governor of Massachusetts, was not in a position to debate Obama on the federal health care law.

“This is what -- this is what they make -- they make a living on instead of covering the context, which is what I discussed at the Supreme Court today, which is Mitt Romney is -- cannot run this race on Obamacare.”

Santorum, who faced questions about the incident for the majority of his interview, also accused Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman who attended the Franksville rally Sunday, of feeding lines to reporters who then interrogated him on the rope line.

“They sent a Romney person to our speech, he fed the line to all the reporters. We saw it happening. And everybody in that -- everybody in that room, even the reporters said, oh, yes, we understood what you meant. But, you know, the Romney people said this to us, so we had to ask you about it. That’s what happened.”

Romney, interviewed by Blitzer earlier in the afternoon, was asked to comment on Santorum’s statement that he’d be the “worst Republican” to challenge Obama on the issue of health care.

“I’m not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days. I know that when you fall further and further behind, you get a little more animated,” Romney answered.

Santorum, Romney and Newt Gingrich appeared in separate interviews on CNN Monday. Santorum took issue with Blitzer’s suggestion that he does not have a realistic chance of reaching the number of delegates needed to obtain the Republican nomination.

“With all due respect, we don’t agree with your numbers. We think they’re wrong,” Santorum said. “You’re going to see a lot of changes when the reality sets in that this race is going, in all likelihood, going to go all the way to the convention.”

Santorum, who spoke at the Supreme Court Monday, said earlier that if the Affordable Care Act is not overturned he will “continue to make the case to the American public that Barack Obama needs to be defeated; otherwise this bill is going to be implemented....This is a loser on every single front.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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