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Santorum: 'I'm not here to defend the president'

He defended his response at a town hall on Monday, where a woman questioned the president's religion and eligibility for the position.

"I've said repeatedly that I don't believe President Obama is a Muslim and he's qualified. This was an elderly lady. She was there leaning on a cane. She was quite wobbly, and I'm not going to sit there and slam an older lady because she has some way-out — some bizarre beliefs," said Santorum on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday. 

Santorum came under fire for not directly addressing the woman's remarks.

"I never refer to Obama as President Obama because legally he is not," the woman said at an American Legion Hall in Florida, reported CNN. She continued by calling Obama an "avowed Muslim."

Santorum responded by saying, "I'm doing my best to try and get him out of there — you're right he uniformly ignores the Constitution."

The former Pennsylvania senator became heated in his defense Tuesday and took a swipe at the media for its complacency in other incidents.

"It's your responsibility to defend the president, not mine," added Santorum. "When the media and others say lies about me and call me names and do things ... it's OK and, in fact, it's promoted and encouraged and made fun of when we do it. Stop it."

Santorum has most notably been the target of a campaign, started by columnist Dan Savage, to link his surname to a sexual neologism when doing a Google search.

"I'm not here to defend the president against scurrilous attacks. It's not my job any more than ... it's your job to defend me against scurrilous attacks," Santorum said.

During the 2008 primary season then-presidential candidate John McCain got media attention when he defended Obama after an audience member called the Democrat an "Arab." McCain took the microphone and said, "No, ma'am" in response.

Santorum distanced himself from the Arizona senator when MSNBC political panelist John Heilemann referenced McCain's response.

"I am not John McCain and I've never been like John McCain and I'm not running as a candidate who's anything like John McCain," he said.