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. Capsaicin

    Even now the NRA and religious groups are out there in force convincing millions of Americans to vote against their economic interests for the currently guilty-as-sin Republican party of rich wall-street raiders, and all the fear-mongering of 'He's Muslim' and 'He's not American' continues to send people back to their 'guns and religion' rather than consider their 'jobs' and their 'future'.

    Obama was speaking the truth in San Francisco, however badly he phrased it.

    October 15, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. Independents for McCain

    Boneheaded or just playing to the audience. Beware of Obama the snake who plays to whatever chord is going sound the best that day.

    Obama, Ayers, Wright, Radicals.

    America First, Country First – Go McCain

    October 15, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. Carrie Pa

    It was a "boneheaded" moment. But, there is alot of bitter, racist people in Northeast Pa were I live. I went to a Palin Rally. I saw it for myself.

    Obama/Biden 08!

    October 15, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  4. Bob. Scranton

    Obama clearly looks down on us small town people because he is an ivory tower elitist. This is why we love Sarah Palin-she talks to us straight. She doesn't say one thing in SF and another in Scranton.

    October 15, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  5. ART BARRAZA

    I THINK CNN HAS THE MOST BIAS FOR OBAMA THAN ANY OF THE OTHER LARGE BROADCASTERS.

    I HAVE GOTTEN TO THE POINT THAT I DO NOT BELIEVE IN ALL OF THE POLLS BECAUSE THE MEDIA IS GENERALLY BIASED
    TOWARD OBAMA AND I JUST HOPE IT ALL COMES BACK TO BITE THEM ALL IN THE END!

    IOBAMA IS NOTHING BUT A BLOWHARD WITH A GOOD DELIVERY,
    BUT NO EXPERIENCE, AND DOES NOT COMPARE TO MCCAIN'S READINESS TO BE THE NEXT COMMANDER IN CHIEF.

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  6. Jane

    Ayres and Acorn are an:

    OBAMI NATION

    of the Democratic Party

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  7. California Voter

    He also said it was "bone-headed" on his part to have bought his house with the help of Rezko's wife. I only hope he is as "great" as some think he has because he has never really revealed himself to the voters and the press has never questioned him . . He has also subtly used race from the beginning of his campaign and his campaign calls those who questioned Obama "racists" e.g. Clintons. Although I've tracked this election from the beginning I don't know who Obama is - what are his true colors?

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  8. Scoti

    I read Alice's comments on this blog: Let's get one thing straight. SINCE I'M AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN, I DON'T APPRECIATE YOUR COMMENT ABOUT US. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE MAKEUP OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, GET THE H*LL OUT!

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  9. Connie

    Can admit to a mistake, an he has brains , what a different' s. OBAMA/BIDEN 08
    Connie from Indiana

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  10. Kevin, Virginia

    I see all these McCain supporters spew their venom and I wonder if they even know what their own guy stands for? You look at the proposals he's been throwing out... he's trying to out-Democrat the Democrats!

    The Republican party doesn't stand for anything anymore.

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. mume

    sometimes we say things da wrong way so pls don't take dis against Obama dats old news obama all da way

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. NO Palin/McCain lol

    Matt said:

    I guess going to Wrights church for 20 years was not a bonehead move. Getting caught was. How many must fall on the sword and get tossed under the bus for this charlatan to get elected.

    It's always someone else Barack, never you right? How many times can you go to the "I didn't know that about them" well?

    Barack Obama Paper Thin President.
    ****************************************************************************

    Hey Matt, you're an idiot. People like you love to talk about what other people say..how about you focus on what Obama says. You're a loser just like your two candidates lol.

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. Biff

    Mike,

    the economy is the deregulation chickens coming home to roost.

    Mike.... do you agree Phil Gramm advocated his entire life for de-regulation of the markets and energy???

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. Wes

    Just think what a disaster it would be if "Mooseburger" ever said anything of her own into a mic.

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  15. Larry

    John McCain insults the American people every day

    Give me a break – re-running this old crap ... pleaseeeeeee ...........

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  16. Obama/Biden '08

    Imagine that...a chicago politician that admits when he made a mistake. Whacha go to say now McShame?

    October 15, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  17. Susan

    It was not bone headed. Any rational clear thinking person understood exactly what he meant. To say it was derogatory to anyone is just ridiculous!

    October 15, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. jason, tx

    A stand up citizen who is brilliant running for President! FINALLY!

    October 15, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  19. D. A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    It is refreshing to finally have someone running for POTUS and is an elected official to have the maturity to say that he made a mistake.

    It is going to be great to have an adult as POTUS instead of spoiled frat boy/fly fly boy who has yet to grow up as POTUS. I

    I am ready for a grown-up POTUS.

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. A Woman In California For Obama:

    As an Obama supporter, I think he should have left this alone. Anyone with half a mind-knows what he meant. Those who chose to be upset and to take what he said out of content were either ignorant or using it strictly for political gain. What he said was true. Had he said this in Oakland or Los Angeles-nothing would have been said. People here in San Francisco are no different than any other place. They want to prosper and thrive just like everyone. It's just because there are so many who can't think for themselves they chose to take it out of content. You were right then-Obama and you are still right.

    Good luck Obama tonight. May the force be with you!

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  21. DLH

    I thought not distancing himself from Rev Wright sooner was his most bone-headed move, no wait, not coming out stronger against Russia's invasion of Georgia, no wait, maybe not asking Hillary to be his VP, no, its saying that he would sit down unconditionally with MyMoodImInAJihaad, no, starting his political career in Bill Ayers Living ROom, no, not acknowledging his poor brother living in a shack in Kenya.... I just can't decide.....

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  22. Janine

    No one is perfect. Not one of our past Presidents was perfect. Obama isn't perfect and John McCain is far from perfect. A great leader is someone who can admit when they're wrong. At least if something isn't working then he will admit it and try something else.

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  23. Peter (CA)

    Alice, the problem is rants like yours.

    The ugliness of the campaign is part of the Republican slime machine we see during every presidential election. Have you not been paying attention? Do you not see the overt hate and racism at the Palin appearances where people shout "Kill him"?

    This is what the foaming at the mouth right wingers bring to the table.
    The porn movie. I'm not going to excuse that. That is just some lowlife's way of making a buck off of this. Maybe the Republicans should not have been wearing all of those "Hottest VP" buttons.

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  24. Jimmy Ortega

    Well, another example of Obama not choosing his words carefully. For someone who believes in the power of words Obama seems to say "boneheaded" things a lot.
    Maybe the real question is: "Who is the real Obama?"
    or "What does Obama really believe in?" (other than himself and putting self before country).

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. TCE

    When JFK admitted to mistakes at the Bay of Pigs, didn't his poll numbers improve? We need more honesty and humility in places of power.

    October 15, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
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