Santorum regrets 'throw up' response to Kennedy speech

Rick Santorum regrets saying that he wanted to "throw up" in response to watching a video clip of President John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech about the separation of church and state.

"I wish I had that particular line back," Santorum said Tuesday on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

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The GOP presidential contender took a lot of heat for his reaction to Kennedy's speech, including criticism from his fellow Republicans.

Rival Newt Gingrich, who a Catholic, defended Kennedy, telling Fox News that JFK said "that his first duty as president would be to do the job of president, and I think that's correct."

On Sunday, while making an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Santorum, who is also Catholic, was asked to respond to a clip of Kennedy's speech in which the then-candidate said he believes "in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." Kennedy's Catholicism was an issue in his presidential campaign.

Santorum didn't pull any punches in reacting to the quote.

"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country," Santorum said on the Sunday news show.

But he was criticized for misrepresenting Kennedy's remarks. Santorum claimed Kennedy said religious people could "have no role" in the public debate, but Kennedy was actually saying he wouldn't take orders from the Vatican if elected, several fact-checking organizations noted.

Santorum has worked to make social issues and religion a primary theme of his campaign. He recently said that President Obama's political agenda was motivated by "some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible." Santorum later said he was not questioning the president's religion, rather, he was "talking about his world view, and the way he approaches problems in this country."

— This post was updated at 12:03 p.m.