April 11th, 2008
10:03 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama defends 'bitter' remarks

CNN

Watch Sen. Obama defend his controversial remarks Friday night in Indiana.

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) –- Barack Obama was forced Friday to defend comments he made at a recent fundraiser where he described some Pennsylvanians as "bitter."

Obama came under fire from Hillary Clinton and John McCain for his remarks just weeks before the Pennsylvania primary.

"When I go around and I talk to people, there is frustration, and there is anger, and there is bitterness," Obama began. "I want to make a point here."

"[Pennsylvanians are] frustrated and for good reason, because for the last 25 years they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas, they’ve seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their pensions. They’ve lost their health care."

Obama then said that politicians from both sides of the aisle have promised answers but that "nothing ever happens."

"So…they don’t vote on economic because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them," Obama said, adding that they end up voting on issues that include gun rights, gay marriage, and faith.

He then directly hit Clinton and McCain, mocking their earlier attacks.

"Here’s what’s rich," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton says, 'Well I don’t think people are bitter in Pennsylvania. I think Barack’s being condescending.' John McCain says, 'Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? He’s obviously out of touch with people. '"

"Out of touch?" Obama said. "I mean, John McCain, it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch?"

"Sen. Clinton voted for a credit card sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch?"

He concluded his argument by telling the audience that it is, in fact, the opposite.

"No. I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, [and] I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up."

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer has since responded to Obama's words on his remarks.

“Instead of apologizing for offending small town America, Sen. Obama chose to repeat and embrace the comments he made earlier this week," Singer wrote in a statement. "It’s unfortunate that Sen. Obama didn’t say he was sorry for what he said. Americans are tired of a President who looks down on them - they want a President who will stand up for them for a change. The Americans who live in small towns are optimistic, hardworking and resilient. They deserve a president who will respect them.”

As has McCain's spokesman, Tucker Bounds.

"Instead of apologizing to small town Americans for dismissing their values, Barack Obama arrogantly tried to spin his way out of his outrageous San Francisco remarks. Only an elitist who attributes religious faith and gun ownership to bitterness would think that tax cuts for the rich include families who make $75,000 per year. Only an elitist would say that people vote their values only out of frustration. Barack Obama thinks he knows your hopes and fears better than you do. You can't be more out of touch than that."

–CNN's Chris Welch

soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. John from Las Vegas

    Go OBAMA! Don't let these hacks put words in your mouth. We all know exactly what you meant. Voters ARE bitter and they have every right to be. Outsourced jobs (Clinton), an illegal war (Bush, Cheney) and the potential future conflict with Iran (loose cannon McCain) not to mention 4 dollar a gallon gas.

    Pennsylvania is waking up just in time. Vote for Obama and lets beat McCain in November!

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  2. Bart

    I was raised with small town values of hope and optimism, but Obama hit the nail on the head. I'm bitter that Washington has done nothing to help us for decades. I'm bitter that I'm paying more and more for health care, fuel, energy, and what I need to survive while those in Washington continue to rake in money from pharmaceudical, oil, and energy companies just to keep things the way they are.

    Washington has been hurting us for decades. And, yeah, I'm a little bitter about that.

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  3. Sarah

    I love Obama...

    Obama 08...!

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  4. Karen - Branson MO

    Only the Clintons and McCain would spin this into offending remarks. For God's sake...Obama is right! We ARE bitter...and Hillary and McCain are the ones who are out of touch!!!

    I'm so sick of "he said she said he said" and "apologize" and on and on and on and on....STOP!

    On the other hand, the more the Clintons and McCain talks...the more ridiculous they appear to the American public.

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  5. s.positive

    There is nothing to apologize for and HERE is the problem, the RICH Clintons and Elite McCains cannot see that folks are really fed up with the way things are and it is a deception to think or say otherwise. WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH about AMERICA now??????

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  6. annie

    Obamas response, Wolf...EXCELLENT!!

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  7. JosBam

    Oh my god...Obama..u r really in touch..because u really know wht is going on in america..U r just courageous...

    Obama 08

    April 11, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  8. Donna Kasa

    I am from Pennsylvania, and I disagree with all of the uproar over Senator Obama's remaks. He hit it right on the head. He is not an elitist. We are ANGRY. We have taken all we can take. Most people in this area do not know how they are going to pay their next bill. The seniors do not take in enough income to survive. The next year will be critical for them. No jobs for our children and grandchildren coming out of college. No gas for our cars. No heat for our homes. Get real Hillary Clinton. WE ARE VERY ANGRY. Attacks like this will only hurt you in the long run.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. white woman

    i thought words are just words.

    obama 08

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  10. Gregory

    What is very clear is Barack Obama does NOT pander to people's fears. Unlike most politicians, he is honest and candid. Does that make some of his statements hard to swallow? Most certainly as Americans are use to a political environment and game that does NOT address the REAL issues.

    Barack, an elitist, give me a BREAK. Hillary and Hubby Bill made over 100 million dollars over the last 6 years and John McCain's wife is an heir to a 100 million dollar family business. Now, you have Barack, the son of an African Immigrant and Kansas women. He comes from middle America and he understands their frustrations. Unlike his opponents, Hilary, Bill and John, the was abandoned by his father at the age of 2 and lost his mother of a terminal illness years ago.

    Barack, does NOT underestimate the intellect of small town America, instead, he embraces it. He small town American and Hilary, Bill and John are just along for the RIDE!!

    Thanks Barack for standing on principles and NOT politics!!! You are a true American hero....

    America is READY for A CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN!!!

    Gregory
    Atlanta

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  11. Garner

    I watched the video of his response to McCain and Clinton, and Obama just knocked it out of the park in the most awesome fashion possible. Clinton and McCain are bush league compared to Obama, particularly in their pathetic attempt to make political hay out of this attention grab of Mayhill Fowler. If the video gets airplay, it's going to bite them both on the backside.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  12. rocky balbaldie

    That is rich.. two millionaires calling Obama out of touch. Who wouldnt be angry that they got laid off because there job went overseas.. Clinton and McCain are two peas in a pod. and neither have my vote.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  13. Sandy

    I agree with Obama, we the general public are bitter and fed up. The cost of living is sky high and we are losing jobs to overseas. Obama should not apolgize, Clinton is just grabbing at any chance she might attack our future President.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  14. Reginald Stewart

    Senator Clinton's remarks that the people of Pennsylvania are not bitter seem to to me that she is a little out of touch with the average blue colar working American. I work right here in there back yard Washington D.C. and I feel that the way the past administrations have let the CEO,s of these companies make millions whether they leave on there own or are fired, and at the same time take money from the employee's is outrageous.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Leo

    Is this goofy, or what? Somebody used the word 'bitter' the wrong way? This is beyond ridiculous. Let's get a life here and talk about the issues. I'm "bitter" about meaningless attacks on opponents.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  16. george

    Hilary should focus on speaking the truth and stop lying. She has misled the people of America enough. She could start with Bosnia then move on to Columbia.

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  17. You bet we are bitter

    Obama, you are 100% correct. We are bitter. Jobs are going overseas, gas prices are ridiculous, health care is a joke, and the economy is in crisis.

    The America we love and respect is in crisis. You bet we are bitter. We are bitter that it has been allowed to happen and continues to happen.

    Finally someone speaks the truth for all the hard-working Americans in this country. Repat after me – WE ARE BITTER.

    How can anyone not think we are bitter? Clinton needs to just pack it up and go back to her self-indulgent lifestyle. She does not have a clue about the rest of America.

    Thank you Obama for speaking the truth. Keep it up!

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  18. Jane

    Obama has talked to the people. He is echoing their words. Obama is echoing the words of the people who have lost their jobs due to NAFTA and all of the outsourcing of jobs from the US to other countries that Hillary has had her hand in. It's been made quite clear that McCain supports NAFTA as well.

    OBAMA SPEAKS FOR THE PEOPLE.

    OBAMA '08

    April 11, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  19. AJ

    This is rediculous, another example of Obama showing people that he needs votes. Americans are indeed bitter.... I am sick and tired of the way the government works, but Americans do not CLING to religion, or gun ownership, or anything else. THese are OUR rights as Americans. Anyone who believes this spin is ignoring the real facts. This had nothing to do with bitterness, and everything to do with the demeaning of our rights, our religion and our laws.

    Clinton 08

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  20. bill pike

    please print this: i am bitter at bush/mccain/clinton for sending our troops to a land that will never know peace, bitter that there was no reason to go, bitter that clinton signed the NAFTA agreement, bitter that the clintons are making millions because of NAFTA and telling people in Penn they are against it AND MAKING MILLIONS. I am bitter that the clintons lie and lie about their lies, l am bitter about acting like she had been a war hero who was under fire when we have our kids being killed every day. I AM BITTER AS HELL AND NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE should be obama's song until november.

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  21. Boye

    I don't think by laughing at the Columbia question, Hillary was respecting the small town people who lose their jobs will she (and her husband) make loads of money off their situation. The word "bitter" can range from disappointment to anguish depending on your point of view. Of course Hillary will bring out the negative just to raise her chance at Pennsylvania.
    How about Hillary run based on her merits and not try to bring down everyone around so she can look better. Oh I forgot, she misspoke about her merits.

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  22. Karen - Branson MO

    p.s.
    Clinton and McCain need to pay more attention to their own shaky campaigns instead of always pouncing on Obama. They twist words to suit themselves (McCain and Clinton).

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  23. Madalynn

    You want to make a point Obama-please explain as I am from a small town. I am insulted and dismayed and have pity for your voters. They are blind. I am happy and elated that now perhaps America will open their eyes. Please tell us more Barack!
    Go Hilary! We can see....!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  24. Hayden

    Wow.....Obama is so arrogant and cocky.

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  25. jb

    Spin, spin, spin, Senator Obama.

    What you said, was the only reason people embrace god, guns (hunting), or are against free trade policies and illegal immigration, is because they are bitter. You were calling rural folks dumb, ignorant, and racist. You were also saying that people embracing god, hunting or gun rights, and anti-free trade and anti-illlegal immigration policies are wrong and/or stupid but would be ok and come around to YOUR "better" point of view if they had good jobs.

    Trying to spin this as a defense of people being upset about job losses is untruthful. Yeah, people are upset about that but what was offensive in YOUR comments SENATOR was you SAYING, people only embraced GOD and other ideas YOU apparently find repulsive is because they're poor and bitter. You're saying GOD has no value except as a CRUTCH!

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
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