Gay former Rick Santorum aide defends candidate on 'extremism'

A former staffer to then-Senator Rick Santorum appeared on Hardball Thursday, and defended the GOP presidential candidate against charges of religious extremism.

Robert Traynham (who is also a contributor to theGrio) said emphatically that he is an openly gay man, who was open with Santorum about his sexual orientation when he worked for the Senator. Traynham said he never heard Santorum voice an anti-gay or bigoted comment when he worked for the Senator between 1997 and 2007.

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And while he said he and the Senator disagree on the subject of gay marriage, he interprets Santorum’s statements about gay marriage to be based on the Senator’s belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage. As for Santorum’s other statements that have been interpreted as anti-gay, Traynham said he interprets Santorum to believe that “you don’t have a right to privacy under the Constitution, and from a legal point of view, he’s kind of right. The word ‘privacy’ doesn’t appear in the Constitution.”

Santorum has come under fire for comparing gay relationships to “man on dog” sex (something he denied ever saying, during an appearance on CNN Thursday) and polygamy. He was booed by a crowd in New Hampshire Thursday as he tried to explain his views on gay marriage and abortion.

During the segment, Hardball host Chris Matthews also questioned Traynham about Santorum’s views on birth control, and whether the former Senator believes contraception should be outlawed based on his own Catholic faith.

WATCH: Former Santorum aide defends the candidate against charges of extremism

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Traynham worked as a press aide to Santorum in 1997 and became communications director for the Senator’s re-election campaign in 2000. He then worked in the Senator’s press office. He first acknowledged his sexual orientation in a 2005 interview with the website PageoneQ.

Santorum was a United States Senator for two terms, from 1995 until 2007. He was defeated for re-election by Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in 2006.