Rick Santorum's invocation of a nightmare of mass murder of the elderly in the Netherlands has provoked a storm of incredulity and criticism in the Western European country, where the local press say his statistics are wildly inflated.
"Rick Santorum Thinks He Knows the Netherlands: Murder of the Elderly on a Grand Scale" is Saturday's headline in the daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad.
"Rick Santorum is an arch conservative. The most conservative of all candidates in the Republican primaries. He loathes abortion and euthanasia. So now he loathes the Netherlands. Because in the Netherlands we kill the elderly like there's no tomorrow," reads the story, according to a translation provided by BuzzFeed's Low Country correspondent, and author of a Dutch blog on American politics, Bertine Moenaff. The story quotes Santorum, before concluding: "This man is really imaginative. It would be a laughing matter, if he weren't in the race for the Republican nomination to take on Barack Obama in the race for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world."
Santorum said in an interview with social conservative leader James Dobson earlier this month that euthanasia makes up "ten percent of all deaths, and half of those people are euthanized involuntarily, because they are old or sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don't go into a hospital. They go to other country."
The Dutch public broadcaster Radio 1 described Santorum's remark as "fact-free politics," and the comments have gotten wide play, leading this evening's broadcast of the country's popular current-event's show De Wereld Draait Door and drawing reports all over the national media.
The Dutch sources estimate that legal euthanasia is the cause of what the Christian paper Nederlands Dagblad put at 3.2% fo deaths at the most liberal estimate, and others put around 2%. Public statistics, which have been reported since the practice was legalized in 2002, cite 3,136 reports of euthanasia out of a total of 136,000 in the Netherlands in 2011, a bit more than 2%.
The Dutch were also flummoxed by Santorum's claim that Dutch elderly wear "Don't Euthanize Me" bracelets.