Arlen Specter: Santorum explanation for 2004 endorsement 'flatly not true'

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He said the issue came up after his election and “at that time I said I would not apply a litmus test” over the issue of abortion rights.

“We never had a conversation about his support for me in 2004,” Specter said of Santorum, who was his fellow senator from Pennsylvania. “It was just assumed. We had always supported each other.”

Specter campaigned for Santorum in 1994 and 2006, and Santorum reciprocated in 1996 and 2004. Specter switched party affiliation in 2010 from Republican to Democrat.

“Until this little brouha in the last few days, our relationship has always been cordial and good,” Specter said. But he said he would not support Santorum now in the GOP primary, saying Santorum's views are “far to the right.”

Specter cited Santorum's “attitude on women in the workplace and gays, his bestiality comments and birth control” as reasons he would not endorse him now.

“I do not think it is realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America,” he said.

But he added that it's not fair for Santorum to be held responsible for Specter's voting record just because he endorsed him. Bush also endorsed Specter in 2004, and Specter noted that Bush's support had probably been more helpful in ensuring his win.

Romney has criticized Santorum for helping reelect Specter because he went on to help pass bills such as 2009's Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform legislation conservatives call “ObamaCare” that all the GOP presidential candidates have pledged to repeal. 

Specter said, “If Gov. Romney wants to give me the responsibility for [passing the Affordable Care Act], I would take credit for it. I am proud of my role in that legislation.”

Specter, who now considers himself an independent and said the parties have been “taken over by the extremes,” plans to make his decision in the upcoming election based on “the merits” of the campaigns. 

“I think on the current field, the president has a decided lead,” he said.