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. Flo

    CNN – Why do you ask for comments when you only print those that are pleasing to you??

    October 15, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. frobe

    i had no problem understanding what he meant when he said it, i just wonder how dumb everyone else was that didnt understand it. he's basically apologizing because people are stupid, and that he didnt dumb it down enough for them to understand

    October 15, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  3. Tom - Oregon

    The republicans will jump all over this again. Obama is simply a fair person who made a benign comment which was really blow out of proportion. He has perhaps made a few remarks that he would love to get back again, but in the long run he is steady and very presidential compared to McCain who has been all over the map in terms of outrageous comments. As for Palin, she is simply a bobblehead of disguisting remarks on the behalf of the McCain camp.

    October 15, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. Former Democrat for McCain

    i FIND IT INCREDIBLY IRRITATING HOW IF SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE VIEW OF cnn POSTS THINGS HERE, THEY'RE CENSORED. i'VE PUT IN AT LEAST FOUR POSTS ON DIFFERENT STORIES WHEN THE NUMBER OF POSTS WAS AROUND 100 AND THE NUMBER OF CONTRIBUTORS KEEPS GOING UP PAST 300 BUT MY POSTS ARE NEVER PUT ON. i CAN ONLY GUESS THAT cnn HAS A REASON FOR PUTTING IN THE IMMATURE "mCsHAME" AND "oBAMA '08" POSTS BUT WHEN SOMEONE HAS SOMETHING GENUINE TO SAY, IF IT DISAGREES WITH THE MAJORITY OF THOSE POSTING, IT'S CENSORED. ALL YOU CIVIL LIBERTIES NUTS THAT ARGUE ABOUT FREE SPEECH OUT THERE PAY ATTENTION. oR ARE YOU ONLY INTERESTED IN RIGHTS FOR THOSE THAT AGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU SAY?

    October 15, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. malclave

    It was boneheaded.

    I also don't buy the way he's trying to spin the comment now.

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

    What? A politician who's willing to recognize, own up to, and learn from their mistakes? Now there's a novel concept. Especially in the face of politicians like Palin falsely claiming that she's been totally cleared of any wrongdoing despite the fact that the report in question actually stated she had abused her power and violated ethics codes in Alaska.

    Obama will make a fantastic President.

    October 15, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. Biff

    KILJOY...

    Obama could say Ice is cold , and water is wet...

    and you would choose not to believe him and say he is a liar.

    October 15, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. Annie, Atlanta

    Just what we need right now, someone who admits a mistake and moves forward. Intelligence and honesty = honorable. That's what I want to see in my President.

    October 15, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. vet for obama

    When is the last time a presidential front runner had the nerve to say they said something "boneheaded"? This man is bigger than most egomaniacal candidates....

    Incredibly truthful and courageous thing to say.... :)

    October 15, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  10. David

    To Alice. The reason that this election is so "vulgar and nasty" is because more Blacks and young people are involved in this election than ones in the past. This should answer your question.

    October 15, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  11. Lyle

    Mr. Obama is still trying to spin his crystal-clear comments. Sadly, as with so many issues facing Mr. Obama, he will take any position and make any statement in order to pander to his audience at any given moment. These comments were a rare incidence when the real Mr. Obama slipped out and the media, going against all they have fought for during this election cycle, allowed themselves to actually report it. How dare the media report anything negative about Mr. Obama!

    His “biggest boneheaded move", perhaps, but only because he allowed the public to hear what he actually thinks, but not to worry, he will never do it again. The real Mr. Obama could not be more out of touch with America if he tried.

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

    How refreshing...a politician that can admit a mistake...so unlike Bush. Yes, every day I see this is the CHANGE we need.

    October 15, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  13. Travis

    I hope that we are making the right choice for prez I am going for Obama and hope he is not just talk but is going to be for the people

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  14. Dummies for Obama

    Well good thing Obama is policing himself, because unless the GOP brings up his obvious serious character, judgment, and experience flaws, the liberal media (CNN, MSNBC, NYTimes, LATimes, WashTimes, ABC, NBC, CBS) won't do it. This is the most rigged election in history.

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  15. Mike

    That's Ok Obama. Usually "boneheaded" moves like that are just the truth slipping up. It wasn't a very nice cover-up. Oh, people blame the economy on the Republicans, but if my memory has served me right, there has been a democrat controlled congress for the last two years and nothing has changed. They are all at fault.

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. Keep it in Perspective!

    This definitely came out wrong but so did a lot of other things from Clinton, McCain, Palin etc. I think people are focused on who can bring about some resolutions to the issues that are plaguing the country right now: savings, jobs, healthcare, taxes, the war, and on and on. Obama has my vote.

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  17. Prashant

    I don't see anything wrong in what Obama has said.This statement from Obama applies to all the ignorant racist Right Wing voters.There is nothing wrong in what Obama said.Don't work Mr Obama,Jesus will not Punish you for this.You are dead right.

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  18. Bobbie, Arlington, TX

    On election night, all the white people will tell the exit pollsters that they voted for Obama. But when they add up the votes it won't seem like they told the truth.

    October 15, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  19. Peter in Virginia

    If I had a dollar for every time Bush said "I am sorry".....I would have no savings.

    Go Sen. Obama, keep on showing those McCain supporters that YOU have what it takes to get us out of this mess and back where we belong, the respected country we used to be, but no longer are......

    October 15, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  20. Nebraska Obama Moma

    I am a registered Republican, for the first time I will vote Democratic, John McCain has insulted my intellect by choosing such an incompetent, right winged, extremist nut case as Sarah Palin. She is definitely scarey. I voted last week, and was absolutely thrilled to give my vote to Barack Obama. If I could, I would gladly cast another vote for him and his brilliant wife and the next first lady Michelle Obama.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 15, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  21. Marie

    That one, please spare us the violence at McCain rally whine. I have read over and over here and on other web sites, absolute hate directed at people who don't support Obama. I have read over and over again threats to burn our cities if Obama doesn't win. Spare me, hypocrite!

    October 15, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. jp,michigan

    I would say the biggest 'bonehead mistake' Obama made, was to allign himself with Ayers, Rev. Wright, Father Phefleger, Rezko and ACRON to promote his political career!

    October 15, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  23. Prashant

    I don't see anything wrong in what Obama has said.This statement from Obama applies to all the ignorant racist Right Wing voters.There is nothing wrong in what Obama said.Don't worry Senator Obama,Jesus will not Punish you for this.You are dead right.

    October 15, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  24. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Foot in mouth disease ... the great equalizer ... of us all!!!

    October 15, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  25. SHELLI1313

    Wow! All should check out Palin's baby daddy on YouTube.com. The real daddy of Palin's daughters baby. He wants to be in the baby's life and take care of his child. He says that he does not want to cause any ill will to the Palins or the relationship that her daughter has with the guy that they are trying to say is the father of the baby. Please if you-all want the truth check out youtube.

    Shelli13 of Georgia

    October 15, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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