Santorum defends backer after contraception remarks

Following his three-state sweep, Rick Santorum is back in the race as a serious contender for the GOP presidential nod. But, will a longer process to pick a nominee be better for the party? Dean Reynolds speaks with Santorum.

Updated Feb. 17, 9:30 a.m. ET

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum responded on Thursday night to comments made by one of his biggest supporters, Foster Friess, about women holding their legs together as a means of contraception. In an interview on Fox News, Santorum also said he morally disagrees with the use of contraception.

In the interview with Fox's Greta Van Susteren, Santorum defended Foster Friess, who is a major financial backer and has donated at least $330,000 to the super PAC supporting Santorum's campaign. He said Friess is "a very good man."

Friess said contraception is inexpensive because back in the day girls would keep their legs tightly shut. "The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly," Friess said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell

When pressed, Santorum told Van Susteren that Friess made "a stupid joke" and that it does not "reflect on the campaign or me."

Van Susteren appeared unsatisfied with Santorum's response and said Friess is "0 and one" in her book.

Santorum backer's contraception tip: Keep legs shut

As for his own beliefs on birth control, Santorum repeated remarks he's come under fire for in recent days. He told the Fox host that he morally disagrees with it. He said contraception is a "downside" to the "whole concept of sexual liberation, sexual freedom."

Santorum has come under pressure in recent days for comments he made in the past about contraception. In an interview in 2006, then-Sen. Santorum said he is "not a believer in birth control."

"I think it's harmful to women; I think it's harmful to society," Santorum said.

An uncomfortable-looking Santorum offered assurance that contraception will be permissible should he become president.

"Not everything that I... disagree with morally should the government be involved in," Santorum said "People have the right to in this country and it certainly will be safe to [use contraception] in a Santorum presidency."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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