October 15th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama calls 'bitter' comments most 'boneheaded' move

Obama said his 'bitter' comment was 'boneheaded.'
Obama said his 'bitter' comment was 'boneheaded.'

(CNN) - It’s a presidential campaign during which Barack Obama has noticeably made few damaging missteps, but the Illinois senator says one in particular was downright "boneheaded."

Speaking to the New York Times in an interview set to be published Sunday, Obama said his now-infamous comments at a San Francisco fundraiser last April - during which he said some small town Americans "cling" to guns and religion - was "my biggest boneheaded move."

"How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward white working-class voters," Obama told the Times. "And I was actually making the reverse point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be frustrated because they've been ignored. And because Democrats haven't met them halfway on cultural issues, we've not been able to communicate to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our coalition."

The comments, first reported by a Huffington Post blogger 10 days before the crucial Pennsylvania primary, immediately set off a firestorm of criticism and charges from Sen. Hillary Clinton that Obama was "elitist and divisive."

"People don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them," Clinton said at the time of the comments many political observers thought had the potential to derail Obama's candidacy.

John McCain also called the comments elitist, though the Arizona senator has made little mention of them in his general election match-up with the Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama went on to lose the Pennsylvania primary by nearly 10 points, though it's unclear if the "bitter" comments specifically contributed to his defeat there. Exit polls showed Democrats didn't view Obama any more out-of-touch than they did Clinton, suggesting the New York senator’s elitist charges didn't stick.

soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Linda32

    Love a person that can admit a mistake.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  2. sandee in Portland

    I admire a person who can admit his mistakes. Maybe McCain should be listening to Obama instead of listening to Axelrod.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  3. joe

    just like I wouldn't expect a perfect presidency from you. It's ok. Move on!!

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  4. A Republican from Texas for Obama

    Who Cares!!! I am so excited that we have come together as most red states and blue states to try and put the best person in the WH for the United States of America. That is Barack Obama...

    Unity is power!!

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  5. June Saint-Marie

    So he made a mistake. It happens. Otherwise he's an excellent and effective communicator, able to inspire millions to take action. If one mistake could ruin a campaign, Palin would have never made it out of Wasilla! Dare we even begin to count her mistakes?

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  6. get a life

    Reharsh..

    Didnt we talk about this already in the primary.

    October 15, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. Mary

    While I understand his mea culpa is for political purposes, it is still refreshing to hear. I wonder if John McCain or Sarah Palin are capable of such introspection? I think not....

    October 15, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. Alice

    kind of like lipstick on a pig is still a pig.... I think there is alot of boneheaded statements and coverups. This campaign has been so nasty and ugly among grown adults...I even have to screen the news about Palins look alike porn as my 12 year old son is following the campaign... GEEEZZZ Whats with the liberals??? Its just vulgar, and plain nasty.

    October 15, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. Chris, Silicon Valley, CA, USA

    I would like to hear how he would meet halfway on cultural issues.

    October 15, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  10. NO OBAMA

    He admits that he is boneheaded.....well, no duh!!!!! I got that figured out on my own without his help!

    He IS elitist...he IS wrong for the United States. Please do not elect this man!!

    October 15, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  11. Jon

    Well, I can see that someone just beat me to my point. But, obviously the sentiment is well shared.
    At least Obama has the intelligence and humility to admit his faults instead of denying them. He is a great man. And first a man and men make mistakes. The greatness of a person, a leader is not in their successes but in their ability to learn from and admit when they were wrong.
    I'm sure no one forgets when Bush only a year ago stated he had 'no regrets' about anything he did while in office regarding the war or any other choices he's made. I don't know if he believes that or not but by saying it he is a fool and a horrible leader.

    We need a great leader. And, Obama is that man.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. beth

    What made that worse was that some people did understand what he was trying to say and they implied that if you didn't get it you were one of Hillary's low information voters...(dumb) It just fueled the fire. The really smart people not only got it, but knew enough to keep their mouth shut about those who didn't.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  13. Deepak

    Finally a president who will accept his misstep and mistakes!

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  14. ST

    Only "big" people can admit their mistakes and take responsibility for them. Knew that "THAT ONE" was one of the best. Glad to see that more people throughout the United States are waking up to this refreshing intelligent thoughtful man as their choice for president.

    From an Arizona Republican for Obama.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  15. Juge

    Very refreshing to see somebody recognize a comment that came out wrong. What you were trying to express is very refreshing too.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  16. Biff

    gonna be a looooong 8 years for some bloggers on here...

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  17. Penn Voter

    Liar, meant it as it sounded. We remain bitter. Bitter that the best that we will get this election is a someone that you.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. tulsa

    democrats /PA October 15th, 2008 4:27 pm ET

    well if the white people or so dumb
    let them pick obama
    as a vet he will never be my boss or pres'
    i'll never slow him any respect or trust him
    -----------------------–
    I feel sorry for people like this. The rising tide lifts all ships and if you choose to be bitter and not look beyond your own hatred, well, I just feel sorry for you.

    Vote Obama 08 for unity and a strong, prosperous America.

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. ND Mom

    John McCain's boneheaded move...Picking Palin!

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. John S

    The proof of a great leader. To accept and honestly talk about his errors is one way to see Barrack Obama is the right choice. To acknowldge his faults and to admit to them openly with the public, is the one thing, McCain/Palin ticket doesn't have."Integrity"

    October 15, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Bill

    Another bone headed statement, a bone headed mistake like the Rezko deal. Another I didn't mean what I said statement, revised months later. Hopefully if Obama gets elected, he won't have to revise what he says to world leaders all the time, and he won't bone-headingly push the wrong button. Somethings you can't fix months later by saying how cute, I was being bone headed again.

    October 15, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. RIF

    Anyone with a brain knew what he was trying to say. It definitly came out wrong. The point he was trying to make is the reaon why McCain choose Palin. Palin was pick to get people focused and voting on cultural issues like abortion and guns because McCain had no answer for their economic woes.

    October 15, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  23. Bring America Back!

    We all "misspeak" once in awhile. Just at this time, it is either misconstrued or it's twisted into lies by the Re'lic party, what's left of it.

    October 15, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  24. Shay

    At least a good Christain always ask for forgiveness and Obama we have forgiven you. When you are in a group of people and so many questions coming your way, you can get things twisted to another non-answer question instead of the correct answer question. You are human and can untitled to some studpid mistakes. At least you can admit it with grace.

    October 15, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  25. Truman

    Well, I guess if that is the only boneheaded thing you do in the next two weeks.

    October 15, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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