(USA TODAY) -- Rick Santorum said today he cursed at a New York Times reporter because he felt he was being harassed about his comment that Mitt Romney is the "worst Republican" to take on President Obama.
Santorum's exchange Sunday night with reporter Jeff Zeleny was captured on video, and staffers in the Romney campaign immediately seized on it as an example of the former Pennsylvania senator becoming "unhinged."
STORY: Santorum: Romney 'worst' Republican vs. Obama
Asked this morning about the incident on Fox News, Santorum said he "had enough of you know what" and called it a "harassing moment."
"If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican," Santorum said.
Santorum said he was talking about health care during a campaign event in Wisconsin on Sunday night when he made the Romney-Obama remark. "Pick any other Republican in the country, but he (Romney) is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama," he said.
When Zeleny asked Santorum to elaborate, the candidate said: "Quit distorting my words. It's bulls---." Zeleny posted Santorum's quote on his Twitter feed.
Santorum said on Fox & Friends today that his point is that Romney is "uniquely disqualified to make the argument against Obamacare" because of his authorship of a Massachusetts health care law that is similar to the national one signed by President Obama.
Santorum plans to be at the U.S. Supreme Court today as justices hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the national health care law.
Zeleny said in a CBS News interview this morning that it is a "very common" tactic for candidates in either party to "use the media as a foil" and suggested Santorum knew the cameras were rolling during their encounter.
The Romney campaign seized on the exchange Sunday, and tweeted out several comments using the hashtag #tantorum.
Santorum, meanwhile, issued a statement shortly after the incident saying he won't back down. The statement, reported by Politico, accused the "liberal press" of being a "defender and enabler of Romney's and Obama's liberal agendas." It also doubled as a fundraising pitch and asked supporters for $30 donations -- which the Santorum campaign says is the equivalent of a New York Times subscription.
Catalina Camia, USA TODAY