April 12th, 2008
11:32 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama on 'bitter' remark: 'I didn't say it as well as I should have'


Watch Sen. Obama speak about the controversy Saturday morning in Indiana.

MUNCIE, Indiana (CNN) - Barack Obama said Saturday that he didn't word his recent comments at a fundraiser "as well as he should have" but added that the back and forth that developed between Obama and fellow White House hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain is "typical."

At a closed-press event in California Sunday Obama referred to some jobless Pennsylvanians as "bitter" who "cling to guns or religion." Saturday, the Illinois senator sought to douse any further firestorm over the comments.

"I didn't say it as well as I should have," Obama told an audience in Muncie, Indiana, the day after he first defended his comments, "because the truth is is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation–those are important."

The campaign added that the "traditions" Obama referred to are those of gun ownership and religion. Obama said those traditions are "what sustains us."

He also labeled the dust up that's developed as "a little typical sort of political flare up" because, as he contends, he said something that "everybody knows is true."

The Democratic candidate maintained–as he had Friday night after the story first broke–that people are frustrated because Washington isn't listening to the average American.

"There are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois who are bitter. They are angry."

"When you're bitter, you turn to what you can count on," Obama said, adding they then turn to voting "about guns" and "taking comfort" in their faith and family.

"That's a natural response."

UPDATE: McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds responded in a statement and said, "Barack Obama’s elitism allows him to believe that the American traditions that have contributed to the identity and greatness of this country are actually just frustrations and bitterness. What ‘everyone knows’ is that the Constitution’s Second Amendment and our country’s strong roots in faith are cornerstone customs in this country, and Barack Obama’s dismissal of those values is revealing."

–CNN Political Producer Chris Welch

soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. OAS

    Thank you for teaching America President Barack Obama. She's a bit hard of hearing and slow to learn. Thank you for speaking the truth in love. A true leader boldly speaks the truth. Wow America is so blessed to have a leader like this.
    Obama '08

    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. Eric

    Coming from Canada, I was quite delighted when I saw Obama making his way tto become the front-runner. He was the first policitican I have seen in years adressing issues and talking to voters with intelligence, integrity and respect, and not treating them like idiots you have to lie to. I really thought America was due for a big change.

    I lost my hope. To make news about such a tribvial subject, to have HRC pathological liar saying she did not meet anybody who was bitter in Penn, to see "flip-flop cut more taxes for the rich"John Mccain describing Obama as out of touch, to observe the media 's reaction, no doubt, America is in for another 8 years of lies, wars and poverty. Very sad.

    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. jp


    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Bond_dallas

    People that are bitter about Obama over this factual remarks should see what their Billary is saying.
    I hate NAFTA she says,, but they make $800,000 from it.
    Wahsington needs to change. But yet she is washington. 35 years
    Words should mean something,, but yet she lies with a straight face.

    How foolish can one be to still vote for clear deception?

    Obama will win,,, you like it or not. He understands the bitterness of the people while the Clintons try to say everything will be alright while they are the only ones eating 109 million.

    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. Anna, SW Missouri

    Obama needs to run with this. His new slogan needs to be "Americans are mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore!" McCain and Clinton are definitely out of touch if they do not understand that.

    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. Jeff in Maryland

    Maybe he could have said it better. But he's right. Americans are frustrated and bitter about getting screwed by bad policy written by lobbyists. Uber rich Clinton and McCain don't identify with that sentiment. I am a registered Republican and I like John McCain but he doesn't get it on the war and the economy. Hillary is pure b.s., say what it takes to get elected – too many lies. I may vote democrat for the first time in many years. Obama may be right for us all, Republican, Democrat or other.

    April 12, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Terri Clark

    Having lived in the small-town Midwest most of my life (MI, PA, and now IN), I have to say Obama's remarks are definitely on-track and in-touch. I suppose Clinton's and McCain's remarks about the remarks being condescending would make sense if we were talking about hard times that were long behind us. But, as Obama said, unlike other parts of the country, most midwesterners (as well as others in other pockets of the country) have continued to face hard times throughout the past 25-30 years. The bitterness, then, is well earned.

    As for directing our attention to other issues, guns, religion, etc.–that, too, is true and very understandable, as these seem to be the only areas where we might have some control, some say.

    But I think we must also realize that the "politics as usual" in Washington has consistently used these niche issues to divide us, to remove our focus from those economic policies that will continue to ignore (or make worse) those challenges that we face. We can continue to be divided by these issues, or we can come together and fight for what we all believe in: family, faith, education and opportunity–the ideas on which this country was founded.

    April 12, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. slow on the uptake

    For thinking himself so superior and intelligent, this man is really slow on the uptake.

    He only sees the problem when others point it out to him in full detail.

    And he keeps speechifying how words matter.

    But he can not see that he basically insulted people by claiming that they took their bitterness and frustration ( we all feel those feelings, and that was never the issue) and became gun-toting racists out to vent their antipathy on fellow Americans, while clinging to faith in God.

    What an ignorant demogogue

    April 12, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. Double Standard

    People get real. Of course there are bitter people in Pennsylvania as well as other states in this country. When someone takes your job and ships it to another country and you have to struggle to make ends meet, of course you get a little bitter, if only for a moment. Stop pretending to be holier than thou and stating you are so repulsed at the mention of it. Tell the truth!
    Go Obama!

    April 12, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  10. osmond

    Everyone keeps bringing up rev wright but research his history. he was a marine and served on the medical staff of two presidents. when jesse jackson went over to get a prisoner of war from another country rev wright accompanied him. and is america not the birthplace of the kkk? look at obamas history and you understand why he stayed in the church. he moved around as a kid all his life and wanted to remain rooted and loyal. that doesnt show bad judgement that shows loyalty and stability. his mom died of ovarian cancer and had to battle with health care companies which is why is health care stance is why it is. look at the people who influenced him the most to understand the man he is.

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. KM

    Clearly Obama could have stated his original statement better. It doesn't take a genius to know what he meant, but that won't stop people from running wild with "elitist" comments. The bottom line is that when you speak in front of thousands of people everyday for 15 months you'll miss represent yourself at some point. Hilary does it, Bill does it, and McCain does it. I hope the American people can see through minor issues like this and vote for the person that best represents their interests.

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Melissa, MI

    Gosh a lot of people do sound bitter...

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  13. Bitter Voter

    Maria, you are one of the few logical people in here! No one should take offense at the word bitter.

    It simply means being disappointed, frustrated, and angry. Yep, that just about describes me!!!

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  14. vm Colo

    Unlike in Obama's church where they teach bitterness, many Americas in small-town America "cling" to their church because they believe in God. What a telling comment he has made.

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. Bob, Austin, TX.

    You SURE didn't say it very well. I'll give you that.

    April 12, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. NoBama

    This is so typical of this guy. He constantly says stupid things and then either lies about it, denies it, or apoligizes for it.

    Naive and without the judgement to lead. His Obama-Bot followers are lemmings more than willing to follow him off a cliff.

    April 12, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  17. BluecolorworkerinPA

    NO wonder you have my vote! Thanx for clearing up!

    April 12, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. spyturtle

    Hillary C. and John M. need to find some other way to get into the news.

    April 12, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Dee

    Finally–someone that isn't too stubborn and obnoxious to say they're sorry!

    Even though personally I think that this whole controversy is unfounded and stupid...if you actually pay attention to what he said, he was empathizing with the suffering of these people.

    Clinton really to make something out of nothing with these ridiculous attacks.

    April 12, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. Grant

    We the people need to take back our government from corporate lobbyists who line the pockets of our politicians!

    Thank you Barack Obama for standing up for me! I am sick of my government telling me everything is OK while they give tax breaks to send my job overseas..

    I was going to vote for Hillary but Barack Obama Has just won my PA vote!!!!!!!!!

    April 12, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Jacqueline, NY

    I still can't figure out what he said that was wrong.

    April 12, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. Kevin, IN

    I don't see why Obama needs to apologize ... what he said is an accurate observation, for the most part.

    I've often heard the same thing expressed by many preachers, in that that when people acquire material wealth they are not as religious.

    April 12, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Obama-sickite

    I'm shocked, finally CNN is brave enough to put up comments that fail to lick the feet of Obama. Even still, I'm staying with the Fair and Balanced report of Fox; and I'm a democrat.

    April 12, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. TGC

    True Colors! Whether you agree with him or not, his true colors are finally showing. Obama is a far left socialist politician, and god and guns are several of his biggest enemies.

    God help us if this bolshevik is elected!!!!!

    April 12, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Grant

    Obama is not saying people go to church because of this he is saying that they VOTE on these issues because they can't trust lobby induced politicians!!!!!!

    April 12, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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