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. stephen in texas

    I understood exactly what he was saying and did not think anything about it. I say this and I've been a hunting guide and understand the mind set of gun owners. Big deal. When I look at the history of stupid things presidents and presidential candidates have made, this is really minor.

    October 15, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. Alice

    Hope Obama wins so it will not cause an upheaval among african americans.

    October 15, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  3. bob in L.A.

    I'm surpirsed its the only thing he can find as an error in his campaign.
    More importantly is that he finds it the biggest error.
    The handling of Rev, Wright? His twisitng of the word used by Bill Clinton in North Carolina causing the campaign to become about race. If you've followed this elecetion cylce, you know the rest.

    October 15, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. Alice

    oh great, now we have to talk about the bitter comment again?

    October 15, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. David

    It's the economy stupid. That's the issue. That's why Barack has said in this down economy he may not be able to raise taxes. Hummm, I know somebody who has said that all along!!!

    McCain/Palin 2008.

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

    Senator Obama is no bonehead , i know a bonehead when i see one Sarah Palin is a bonehead!!

    October 15, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  7. Patricia, Michigan

    Obama, was telling his true feelings behind close doors.
    Now he got caught

    October 15, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  8. Defend Our Constitution

    FINALLY. A leader who owns up to his mistakes and isn't afraid to admit that he could have done better. As a comment above said, REFRESHING.

    October 15, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  9. sick n tired

    Im from rural america! I believe in god! I own more than a few guns! and i also believe in doing the right thing that makes the most sense whenever possible! and i knew what you meant Barack! YOU DONT OWE ME AN APOLOGY AT ALL! Now get out there and win this thing already! Your country NEEDS YOU!!!!!

    October 15, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  10. paul

    Wow! a politician that can actually admit to a mistake made.

    Quite a refreshing change after 8 years of "You're either with us or against us" attitudes.

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

    Thank you Senator. I own a gun, 2 actually. Living on a farm, I need them. I know you are a constitutional scholar and believe in the 2nd amendment.
    Thank you for being able to hold the different views of all Americans in your head and heart.
    Be a strong and decisive leader. Be the example of what we can be.

    Obama/Biden 08

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

    There's a lot of truth in what Obama said so I'm a little disappointed in his apology, but completely understand why he did it.

    Now can we get on to discussing the ISSUES???

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

    I'm pro Obama, but, that was a "boneheaded" thing to say. His words. However, he's not perfect and I can't wait to cast my vote for him.

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

    Stay the course it's almost over, Mc cain is still sorting out the reasoning for his Ms. Palin choice, can't seem to understand why he selected her.

    October 15, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. Go, Go, Go Away...To The Polls Baby!!!

    You're forgiven! You must forgive others to be forgiven. Early voting starts today in TN and "That One" has my vote!

    October 15, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  16. Latina for Obama (nj)

    you are a great man Barack...i cant wait to call you..President Barack Obama

    YES WE CAN!!

    October 15, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  17. independent in Texas

    Oh, poooooh ! He has explained that many times, so has biden, he isnt going to take anyones guns, except criminals, so if your not a criminalk, you dont have to worry ! Neither is he going to change anyones religion, OR take away their rights to worship ! Yes, the way he said it came out wrong, but so what ! I have had things I said come out wrong TOO..Let you with NO sins cast 1st stones, and be careful they dont boomerang on yOU...
    Texas for Obama, and yes, we like our guns in texas too, AND our religion AND OBAMA
    D.Bradshaw.....Texas

    October 15, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  18. Marj,Paso Robles, Cal

    His comments to Joe the plumber in Toledo was his dumbest statement ever.

    October 15, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  19. Patrick, Fairfield, CA

    Very Presidential when the Commander in Chief can say to the American people, "I am not perfect, I make mistakes." That is honest leadership and something we have severely lacked for far too long!

    October 15, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  20. Gary

    Thats terrible Barak, and you shouldn't have called anyone a Terrorist or a Muslim. Oh wait, that wasn't you was it?
    Sorry Barak, you have a long way to go to drop below Mccain and Palin. They've set a new low.

    October 15, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. E B

    Obama realizes his 'boneheaded" comments and even actions will be scrutinized more and harder than any other candidate. THIS WILL RENDER HIM A FAR GREATER PRESIDENT.

    October 15, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  22. PaulMoATX

    Accountability is grand. We are all human beings and make mistakes, or say things that we wish we could take back. Hindsight is 20/20. Go dominate tonight Barack, we are all pulling for you!

    October 15, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  23. Jeanette

    Obama is not a perfect man, and he owns up to his mis-spoken words. I admire him for that.
    As far as him being an elitist....I don't buy it. He's an educated man and it shows, and we need an educated man to be president.
    Bush was not a smart man, and neither is McCain. Bush was a governor, and so is Palin.
    I'll take Obama and Biden any day over the McCain-Palin crew.
    Anyway, if people want to call Obama an elitist go right ahead. He's smart and steady and thats what I'm looking for.

    October 15, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  24. McCain=the draft

    At least he admits mistakes, unlike Bush and McCain!

    October 15, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. carol

    At least Sen Obama can admit he made mistakes....nobody said he was perfect as none of us are lets face it.
    What we need is a steady hand and cool head to get this country back on track.....someone who will fight to help the less fortunate who are working and still cannot make ends meet.
    That is a very important fact here to remember.....he's not giving to those who don't deserve it.....he wants to help those who work hard and STILL can't afford to live and let alone afford health care!!!!
    So lets elect this very capable, smart, intelligent man who will work hard for the American people and get this country working again as it should.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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