April 11th, 2008
10:03 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama defends 'bitter' remarks


Watch Sen. Obama defend his controversial remarks Friday night in Indiana.

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) –- Barack Obama was forced Friday to defend comments he made at a recent fundraiser where he described some Pennsylvanians as "bitter."

Obama came under fire from Hillary Clinton and John McCain for his remarks just weeks before the Pennsylvania primary.

"When I go around and I talk to people, there is frustration, and there is anger, and there is bitterness," Obama began. "I want to make a point here."

"[Pennsylvanians are] frustrated and for good reason, because for the last 25 years they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas, they’ve seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their pensions. They’ve lost their health care."

Obama then said that politicians from both sides of the aisle have promised answers but that "nothing ever happens."

"So…they don’t vote on economic because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them," Obama said, adding that they end up voting on issues that include gun rights, gay marriage, and faith.

He then directly hit Clinton and McCain, mocking their earlier attacks.

"Here’s what’s rich," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton says, 'Well I don’t think people are bitter in Pennsylvania. I think Barack’s being condescending.' John McCain says, 'Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? He’s obviously out of touch with people. '"

"Out of touch?" Obama said. "I mean, John McCain, it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch?"

"Sen. Clinton voted for a credit card sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch?"

He concluded his argument by telling the audience that it is, in fact, the opposite.

"No. I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, [and] I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up."

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer has since responded to Obama's words on his remarks.

“Instead of apologizing for offending small town America, Sen. Obama chose to repeat and embrace the comments he made earlier this week," Singer wrote in a statement. "It’s unfortunate that Sen. Obama didn’t say he was sorry for what he said. Americans are tired of a President who looks down on them - they want a President who will stand up for them for a change. The Americans who live in small towns are optimistic, hardworking and resilient. They deserve a president who will respect them.”

As has McCain's spokesman, Tucker Bounds.

"Instead of apologizing to small town Americans for dismissing their values, Barack Obama arrogantly tried to spin his way out of his outrageous San Francisco remarks. Only an elitist who attributes religious faith and gun ownership to bitterness would think that tax cuts for the rich include families who make $75,000 per year. Only an elitist would say that people vote their values only out of frustration. Barack Obama thinks he knows your hopes and fears better than you do. You can't be more out of touch than that."

–CNN's Chris Welch

soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. OlvrWhit

    Now now Obama...lets talk about who voted for what. You voted to give the oil companies tax breaks....now your ads in PA lie and say you are against tax breaks for the oil companies.

    plain and simple, you said the people in rural PA are bitter, then you said they turned that frustration into an excuse for being bigots...thats condesending and an insult to hard-working americans.

    You can't blame your remarks on McCain or Clinton..

    April 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  2. robin

    Keep on taking everybody down with you Hillary. Just sink the whole democratic party. The Clinton legacy is toast.

    April 11, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  3. USAF Sr. Airman

    I'm from Pennsylvania. I lost my civilian job due to outsourcing. I was VERY BITTER. Obama hit the nail on the head. It's not condescending, it accurate.

    April 11, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  4. john

    Obama is an arrogant liar!


    April 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  5. BluecolorworkerinPA

    He didn't defend, he is affirming the truth!

    April 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  6. Karl Shipps

    This is the kind of attack that Hillary has to make to keep attention away from the Bill and Hillary Bosnia Lie-athon. Maybe people in small towns that had jobs dry up actually are bitter, but not in the pretend Clinton universe. They should learn how to give speeches and go earn $109M over the course of 7 years. I can't wait till this mendacious, avaricious pair is finally on the sidelines where they belong.

    April 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  7. Chic

    What's kinda cool about Obama is he could go into the lies Billary talks about Penn or even her campaign corruption trails that's on hold, but he don't he only campaigns about the American issues.

    Thanks for keeping it clean

    April 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  8. Rock

    I understand that people will be bitter, but why say "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."

    "So…they don’t vote on economic [issues?] because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them," Obama said, adding that they end up voting on issues that include gun rights, gay marriage, and faith.

    I think I get it. That's why they vote Republican? All these – gun rights, gay marriage, and faith – are the stronghold of the Republicans.

    April 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  9. Terry

    I think it's laughable that the two candidates – McCain and Clinton – who are worth over $100 million think that they are more in touch with the average voter in small town USA.

    April 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  10. Edgar

    Obama no wonder you have everyone high on kool aid becuase you are on kool aid yourself. How can you know what people are feeling if you are one of the rich politicians in Washington.

    Your book made you millions and you gave very little to charity! Be honest with the American people and stop having CNN fight for you.

    Americans Obama is not being real! PLEASE WAKE UP!

    April 11, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. Johnson Arroyo

    Isn't McCain & his wife worth over a $100 million? Isn't Billary the same? Last time I checked, the elitist were the ones with the nine-digit bank accounts.

    April 11, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. Bob

    Obama You have the courage to stand up against the washington politics. You said the correct. If I loose my job I feel bitter. Nothig wrong about it. Others are making a political issue for the vote banks. America is sliding to third world country politics.

    April 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  13. Change

    vote obama end the drama

    April 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  14. mark0rz

    first comment wooo! =D

    go obama, yes i'm bitter too coz i just recently got laid off... tell me the truth instead of lies! thx

    April 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  15. HILLARY!

    BO needs to apologize to the Pennsylvania citizens........he is such a hypocrite and arrogant elitist......just like his wife.

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  16. Texas Girl

    If you are tired, acourting to Your husband,Bill,as a 60 year old, at 11.00 p.m., how can you answer the phone at 3.00 a.m. ?

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  17. Jackie Nb

    Barack Obama and his supporters are so unbelievably desperately blind!!!! Lord help America if this person wins the Presideny.
    McCan or Clinton, get this man out of your way please!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  18. Eric-Illinois

    Same old political spin..The great Messiah is out of touch. Instead of just saying he was sorry he has to attack Hillary. When will these Obamacs wake up. He is a slick Chicago style typical pol. Please won't he just get out of the way and let the grownups go to work. We would not be in this mess if he had not been so premature ambitious. His wife's comment about not being proud of this country until he's running for Pres. will be enough for the swiftboaters to eat him alive. Come back to Illinois-we need another shady Emil Jones puppet

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  19. Ltgray

    I think Clinton and McCain are truly out of touch with the American people if they don't realize that people are bitter. I think Obama hit the nail on the head. Hillary is grasping at straws. Sometimes I wonder if she is a democrat or republican. John McCain is really out of touch when he says that homeowners should just sink in their foreclosures. It seems to me that the both of them are the elite having so much money between the two. Hillary should decide if she is a democrat or republican.

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  20. Kevin, fl

    I hope he is done. Him and his wife need to go away. Don't belittle me like that. I would go to your church if I wanted to be belittled

    April 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  21. Change

    *****vote obama end the drama.****


    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. RachelBSW

    Obama does understand our hopes, McCain's people didn't seem to listen to Obama's remarks at all. Obama as an elitist is so laughable coming from Mccain!

    He should not apologize for this remark. He should acknowledge it as truth, every one is this country has a lot to be bitter about. Let's talk about that.

    OBAMA 08

    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  23. DGW

    Took you guys long enough and everyone go to you tube or politico or huffington or daily kos for the full video on the response. Sometimes I wonder if CNN kicks themselves since they run them live.
    You should have been first and post the video!!!!!!!!!!!

    Obama is the man! He was excellent and McCain and McClinton need to go to bed and let this guy in the White House!

    Lou Dobbs take that! and I hope that you run the full video..... YOU BITTER MAN!
    Obama 08!

    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  24. Yvonne

    The Clinton and McCain camps are working this too hard. Barack's rebuttal will be the tape that gets played over and over and few people will disagree with what he said. Clinton and McCain look out of touch by trying to spin this as a diss. Obama = SCORE!

    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  25. Angus1000

    Obama does not need to apologize..

    He was simply being empathetic..

    Obama is not a big free trader... He is a religous man..

    I think that he was simply describing the plight of the rural midwestern family as he does inner city people...

    Obama traveled Illinois often for 12 years..

    It is interesting that the Clinton and McCain comments are so similar...

    Maybe they corresponded?

    Strange says..

    I actualy liked Obama's comments.

    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
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