Rick Santorum Compares Kim Davis To Columbine Victim Cassie Bernall & It's A Disgusting Point To Raise

During Thursday's GOP mini debate, ahead of the evening's main event, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum compared Kentucky clerk Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses to a Columbine student who allegedly stood up for her religious beliefs when confronted by her killer in April 1999. Immediately, social media erupted in disgust, with many decrying the comparison as insensitive and demeaning. Further complicating the Santorum's comments was the fact that the particular anecdote that he had chosen was later proven to be false.

"Sixteen years ago, this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine ... was challenged about her faith, and she refused to deny God," said Santorum. "We saw her as a hero ... [but] today, someone who [defies] a judge's unconstitutional verdict, is ridiculed, chastised, because she's standing up and not denying her God and her faith."

The particular story to which Santorum had been referring was a widely circulated one that made headlines in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy; According to initial reports, shooter and fellow student Eric Harris allegedly asked classmate Cassie Bernall, 17, whether she believed in God prior to opening fire, to which Bernall supposedly replied, "Yes." The anecdote spread quickly as classmates and the public attempted to make sense of the violent incident, but a later report by survivor and Columbine High School student Emily Wyant clarified that Bernall had not confronted her killer, but had been praying silently as she hid beneath a table with Wyant.

Although Bernall's death was made no less tragic by the revelation, it did make Santorum's answer on Wednesday night that much less reliable.

But content wasn't Santorum's only problem — it was the method in which he delivered that message of religious liberty that seemed to frustrate viewers the most. By comparing Davis, a government employee who was arrested and jailed for refusing to comply with a judge's order, with Bernall, Santorum seriously overstepped his bounds... and Twitter knew it.

"Wait ... comparing Kim Davis to a girl who died in COLUMBINE!?! #sharkjumped," tweeted Daily Beast Senior Political Editor Jackie Kucinich.

But Santorum wasn't finished. Adding to his earlier gaffe, Santorum then compared Davis to famed Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Martin Luther King wrote a letter from Birmingham Jail, and he said in that letter that there [were] just laws and unjust laws," said Santorum. "And [he said that] we have no obligation to condone and accept unjust laws." Santorum then claimed that the June 26 gay marriage SCOTUS ruling went against "natural" and "moral" law, indirectly claiming that Davis, like King, had a moral right to defy said ruling.

Once again, social media pounced.

"Santorum invokes MLK in defense of #KimDavis," tweeted New York Times columnist Charles Blow. "I had to stop myself from flinging my phone across the room."

If Santorum was looking to make waves on Wednesday night, he certainly accomplished as much... just probably not the way he had hoped.