"Santorum Spokesperson Refers To Obama's 'Radical Islamic Policies'", TPM 2/20/2012:
Rick Santorum spokesperson Alice Stewart slipped up on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports Monday afternoon when talking about President Obama's environmental policies. Instead, she called them Obama's "radical Islamic policies."
Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley told TPM that Stewart "misspoke." Andrea Mitchell said that Stewart called her to say she slipped up. "She had repeatedly said during that same interview ‘radical environmental policies’ and she said she slipped when she apparently said [it]."
Ms. Stewart was explaining Senator Santorum's criticism of President Obama's "phony theology … not a theology based on the Bible". What she said in context:
well certainly uh Rick has said it, we've all said it before uh
uh Robert Gibbs took it out of context
he wasn't questioning the president's character, he wasn't questioning the president's uh religion
as he said as he's clarified the statement
he was talking about radical environmentalist- he was talking about it- there is a type of- of-
theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country, that's what he was referring to
he was referring to the president's policies in terms of
the radical islamic policies the president has
and specifically in terms of- of
the en- the energy exploration …
This is a good example of the kind of slip of the tongue that happens when the wrong word is highly activated in the context, and comes out in place of the word the speaker intended. Here the word islamic is highly activated for several reasons.
In the first place, the whole discussion is about what Stewart claims was Santorum's non-standard use of "theology" as a cover term for "environmentalism". The standard sense of "theology" references religions, which gives islamic a bit of a kick to start with.
In the second place, the top 10 current adjectival collocates of radical (with their counts in COCA) are:
islamic (286), new (158), political (94), islamist (92), economic (76), social (69), shiite (61), muslim (53), feminist (50), religious (42), environmental (34)
Overall, "radical X" occurs at a rate of about 4 per million, and "radical islamic|islamist accounts for about a quarter of that total; "radical environmental|environmentalist" is less than a tenth as frequent.
There's not much phonological similarity, but the stressed syllables do share /m/, and there's an /l/ nearby in both cases (and also in the neologism "global warmists" which she uses as a equivalent for "environmentalists" earlier in the same sentence). Of course, islamic and environmental are both modifiers.
And finally, there's a background accusation (apparently believed by about a third of Republicans) that President Obama is a secret (or perhaps even open) Muslim. It's not necessary to think that Ms. Stewart believes this, or meant to send a message to those who do, for this association to play a role in her mis-speaking.