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Santorum Clarifies Jenner Comments: "Obviously And Biologically" Not A Woman, But Won't Argue Out Of Respect

"If Bruce Jenner says he's woman then I'm not gonna argue with him. I know what obviously and biologically he is. That doesn't change by himself identifying himself."

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Speaking in South Carolina two weeks ago, former Sen. Rick Santorum said that Bruce Jenner "says he's a woman, then he's a woman." The comments came as a surprise to many:

"If he says he's a woman, then he's a woman," Santorum, who is weighing running for president again in 2016, said in response to a question from BuzzFeed News during a roundtable with reporters at the South Carolina Republican Party's convention. "My responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are. I can criticize, and I do, for what people do, for their behavior. But as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody, and these are obviously complex issues for businesses, for society, and I think we have to look at it in a way that is compassionate and respectful of everybody."

"So these are tough issues. I haven't got into the whole issue, and I don't think the federal government should get into the whole issue of bathrooms," Santorum said after being asked whether he thinks Jenner should be able to use women's public restrooms. "I think those are things that the business community and local agencies and organizations should deal with."

Santorum then posted on his Facebook saying, "It was meant to express empathy not a change in public policy."

Facebook: RickSantorum

Santorum clarified the comments on local New Hampshire radio on Tuesday. Santorum said he knew what Jenner was "obviously and biologically" but wouldn't argue that point with Jenner. He added Jenner should be treated with "dignity and respect."

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"What I said was, I think you have to treat every person with dignity and respect, period. That's the bottom line," said Santorum.

"If Bruce Jenner says he's woman then I'm not gonna argue with him. I know what obviously and biologically he is. That doesn't change by himself identifying himself. His genetics and DNA isn't changing, but out of respect, as you said, I'm not gonna argue if Bruce Jenner's a woman with Bruce Jenner. I'm gonna treat him with dignity and respect and that's what I said."

Jenner, the former Olympic star and Kardashian stepfather, came out as a trans woman in interview with Diane Sawyer three weeks ago. Santorum is expect to launch his presidential campaign soon.

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

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