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. jp,michigan

    His alliance with Ayers, Wright and ACRON was his biggest misstake!

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  2. tulsa

    Alice, you're one more to feel sorry for.
    There are some really unhappy people on here. You need to get past it and begin living again.

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  3. The real Fred

    Obama is the candidate of change. Right. He changes everything he says to suit his purpose. This time it took him four months to parse his words and say what he really meant. Give me a break, man. I'll take a straight shooter like McCain any day.

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  4. Know the truth

    Every voter… no matter who you are supporting should google:
    Philip J. Berg esq and Obama.

    You need to read about his lawsuit and how Obama and the DNC are trying to hide it from you. This is not an anti-Obama post, this is a serious issue. This is a pro USA post.

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  5. Michael

    A politician that can admit an error?!? Haven't seen that in quite a while in our country... It's a new age dawning, obviously.... I can only hope we all get beyond what happend in the last 8 years quickly. I had a real problem understanding Nancy Pelosi's stance on impeachment, but i think i got it now...

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  6. Jackie in Dallas

    Guys, if you are going to blog about ACORN, be sure to mention that McCain posed for a photo op in their office after talking to their executive board about what a good job they were doing. Guess that makes him...what? Obama has stated that he was never an ACORN trainer which was substantiated as true, but admitted that he contributed money to the cause, which puts him the same group with Annenburg, McCain, and various other Republicans. Their stated purpose is a good one - to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote registers to vote. Unfortunately, there were some bad apples in their employees. To imply that Obama supports voter fraud is rather short-sighted because it then opens up your guy to the same charge.

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  7. Biff

    McCain picked PALIN as his runnin"soul" mate..

    now THAT was bone headed.

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. Annette

    Hey Senator Obama you are human, at least you can admit your error. That's what we need no excuses, but reality and realness and a keen sense of oneself and the respect of others.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 15, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  9. European

    Yes, a great man at last on American soil
    Obama for the world

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  10. Carol, NY

    It's hard to know who Obama is when he keeps changing his story.

    He still has not told us why he stayed in Rev. Wright's church for 20 years listening to his racist and anti-American venom. The only conclusion to draw is that Obama agrees with the Rev. and will bring him into the White House.

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Don

    So how does he plan to meet small town America halfway on cultural issues?

    The actual quote is:
    "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

    Translation: If the government takes care of you, the government will take the place of guns or religion.

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  12. NOBAMA - NOWAY-NOHOW

    It was one of the few times he spoke how he actually feels!! The guy is another Bill Clinton – says whatever it takes to get elected. He'll change his story till he gets the votes he needs and you FOOLS fall for it. Look at his record – Oh, that's right he doesn't have one unless voting present is taking a stand. Don't forget he has one of Clinton's group from the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac fiasco as part of his policy group advising him.

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  13. KenB, MI

    intelligent, humble, patriotic and tuff...sounds good to me.

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  14. Jill from Texas

    This white woman from Texas is voting for Obama/Biden. I'm not giving up hope that voters here will ignore the media's national electoral map of the United States that shows Texas as a red state. I believe there are more supporters here for change than the media realizes. Has anyone polled our state lately?

    Apparently, no one believes our 34 electoral votes are up for grabs? I hope there are other Texans ready for change, who take the time to vote.

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  15. jp,michigan

    Refuse to lead the public have its say!

    October 15, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  16. Rachel

    "small town Americans "cling" to guns and religion" I think that's very true, take a close look at McCain, Palin supporters. They're the kind to say "off with his head".

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  17. DX in TX

    It's refreshing to see a man in the political arena admit his mistakes! It's not a sign of weakness....it's strength of character!

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  18. Charlie

    Took him long enought to realize it. Why hasn't he apologized for anything else?

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. Scoti

    I can appreciate anyone who admits to making a mistake or making boneheaded comments. This is something that the McCain camp probably didn't see coming. Go Obama.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  20. Pepou

    What I like with Obama is that he is not afraid to criticize himself and admit when he goofed. It is refreshing and ... not elitist in the least. This is definitely the leader we need in our national crisis.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  21. spudmctater

    Well, of course, he didn't mean any offense. But he is man enough to admit when he makes a mistake and says something clumsily.

    If only McCain could admit when he makes a mistake. Then again, he'd probably be apologizing all of the time.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  22. margie

    Oh my, he's admits his mistakes, how humane, I could eat my own sh!t . What an inspiring man.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. Democrat in Cali

    HELLO REPUBLICANS! Can we all just get along? I mean, really. We're in together no matter what, you know...

    Obama in '08!

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. Andrea

    Way to go. At least Barack can admit when he has made a mistake.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. Nannie Bouroughs

    Everything that come out of the mouth of the Jr. Senator from Illinois is: BONEHEADED!

    American need a REAL LEADER WITH REAL EXPERIENCE: JOHN S. MCCAIN!

    END OF DISCUSSION!

    END OF ELECTION!

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
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