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. Apolo G. Myazz

    Obama is the elitist? The new comer is out of touch? Good grief, Clinton and McCain helped to create the mess Obama is talking about. If it were not for Obama I'd gladly hang this mess we're in around either of his opponents necks....especially the situation in Iraq.

    April 11, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  2. George

    Bad spin attempt, instead of apologizing for insulting millions of Americans he makes jokes about Hillary and McCain. I wish the Senator from Illi-nausea would shut up and go back to what he does best which is attending important votes and voting "Present"

    April 11, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  3. Anne

    I find it difficult to place much credence in the words of fabulously wealthy politicians. They have NO idea of the anger and the frustration to be found in those whose lives have been drastically altered by governmental interference and its inability to treat them fairly. Outsourcing jobs may make sense to their corporate sponsers, but it sure doesn't make sense to those who lost their jobs.

    Barak Obama is dead on with his comments. He is not denigrating people...he is voicing his understanding of their plight. A person who wishes to solve a problem must first recognize that it exists. Judging from the comments of Senators McCain and Clinton, they are totally clueless.

    Perhaps Senator Clinton would be a good running mate for Senator McCain. They seem to have the same perspective on economic issues.

    April 11, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  4. Justin

    Wow, what a misleading opening statement. Good one!

    April 11, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  5. Obama 8 n 12

    well said Mr Future President!!

    April 11, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  6. Jon

    People are not just bitter about the economy and do-nothing, lying politicians, they are also bitter about the Irag war, our govenment's support of torture, the 30 percent dropout rate of our students, the greed of corporations like the oil campanies, the neglect of our environment, the crumbling of our infrastructure, the huge deficit, the sqandering of our resources and many others. Obama struck a cord with me because I feel this frustration. I want things to be different. When the campaingn started I was neutral. Now it is clear to me that Obama is in tune with the people. He gets it. Is he perfect? No. But we need to change things. Deep in my heart I feel that he can be a leader that will bring out the best in everyone. I sense that he will truly work for us to make a difference.

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  7. sri

    he can do no wrong right?how many times can a candidate explain his way out of mistakes?he is surely going to run out of excuses one day.This is a surefire way of giving Mcain the presidency!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  8. Sam from Tucson

    hell yes we are bitter! We are sick of the last eight years that destroyed our economy, drove up costs and threatens our job security.

    McCain? Good Grief, I live in Arizona. They are shutting down schools, giving teachers pink slips, not insuring homes because the value dropped so low, closing after school care programs that will mean cost hike in sitters for people like me.

    Hell yes I am bitter, and fed up. Only rich McCain and Clinton would not know how bitter we are. There are two Americas. They are the ones that are horribly out of touch!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  9. Antonio Blanco-Gilmore

    To Whom It May Concern:

    Is the Clinton campaign serious about their recent comment–"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 stand up for them for a change." Hasn’t Barack Obama message been all about change? If this is the best hope of ‘Clinton and McCain' winning the presidency and the lack of sound judgment by taking out of context his speeches by reading between the lines of a hopeful president than maybe both McCain and the Clinton campaign are feeling the pressure of a future president who is truly sincere to his voters and most importantly honest to them. This is what the American people want!


    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  10. sylvia l. peters

    I'm an angry African American senior citizen who lives in a community outside of Knoxville, TN. My fixed income is being taxed to the maximum. Instead of going out for dinner tonight, I went to the local grocer, and spent $68 for food that use to cost $34.

    We've worked more than 45 years, yet we can barely make it on our pension income, savings, and small social security.

    I paid almost as much this evening, for a tank of gasoline, as I did for food that will last us two weeks because my careful planning. I'm disturbed and upset by the fact that after serving as a public school educator for many years, I still have to be careful about how I spend money.

    To accuse Senator Obama of belittling small town America is a figament of your corporate imagination. He's telling the truth about small, medium, and big towns in America. The cost of living in this nation has become outrageous.

    Sadly, you the media will dig, and dig, and dig until white people everywhere are convinced that Senator Obama is an elite Harvard graduate who simply doesn't care about small people. How dare you do this. Your spin is so far from the truth of his remarks that it's painful to listen to commentaries on CNN.

    Senator Barack Obama is man of integrity that speaks for Americans throughout the country. His roots are grounded in small town, urban, and muticultural America. His thinking represents a new kind of political will. One that seeks change, honesty and truth telling. His comments about small town people in Pennsylvania are as truthful as those residents who indicate that they just can't vote for an African American.

    Senators Clinton, Mc Cain, and the American press never imagined that a bi-cultural American man would rise to challenge them for the highest postion in the country. What's really sad is to watch the manipulation of the press to inflame the innermost fears of White Americans with its incessant comments regarding the inappropriateness of some of the Senator's remarks.

    I am saddened by the thoughts that ... you the media cannot believe that this man, chosen for these times, has to cope with your lunacy and racism. You the media who are constantly viewing every morphographic sound that he makes for word particles that can be spun into an afront of white people. You should be collectively ashamed of yourselves to present such biased and inflammatory views to Whites in Pennsylvania regarding the Senator's remarks. You the press are playing to their base existence, and inability to carefully analyze comments made by others.

    Your remarks, comments, and jaded insights are about nothing but fear, fear, fear. You the press with your spin are the cause of this nation becoming less than it can be. Your collective resistance to people of color are some of the causes that have turned this nation of optimistic believers into a hopless group of cynics.

    You are killing the dream of many Black and White citizens to have an African American president of the country by your constant denigration of every word the Senator speaks. Please take the time to do some careful analyses of comments before you bring them forth to be publicly debated

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  11. Michael Mee

    This is funny because Clinton and McCain are misplaying this soooooooooo very badly.

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  12. Jon, Los Angeles

    Obama is right! The people are bitter for losing their jobs through NAFTA and Hillary, Bill and McCain always laugh to the bank. They don't feel the pain that the ordinary Joe is feeling after losing his job and buying gas for almost $4 a gallon. People are M-A-A-A-D!

    Hillary is really desperate!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  13. J

    Thank you Barack Obama! You will make the best President we have ever had. This folks, is called the truth.
    Anyone who suggests that economic hard times don't provoke "bitterness" is the one who's out of touch.

    Spin Mr. Bounds? Your statement is spin. That's what spin is.

    "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"

    This from some political strategist who spends hours every day carefully crafting his speech full of trigger words and deceptions.

    If America can't handle the truth, it does not deserve Barack Obama.

    April 11, 2008 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  14. Obama08 but...

    Okay, here we have 3 folks running for office. One is the Republican nominee, who is ancient and promising war and knows nothing of the economy. Second, is a woman who is married to an expresident that was impeached, that says what she wants (mispeaking, having folks fired for talking about her daughter, changing mind about war, accusing right wings of conspiracies, for NAfTA, not for NAFTA,), telling heart felt stories about this person and that person she met along the campaign trail to get votes, not to mention beginning every other sentence with "You know...". Last we have a man that calls it likes he sees it whether we like the truth or not. How is one supposed to change a mindset of a nation that is so fed up with their government and needing some kind of solution unless we get real??? McCain is democrat in sheeps clothing and Hillary is Republican in democrat clothing. Although Republicans need Obama to loose so they can defeat Hillary in Novemeber, and defeat her they will. Wake up America.

    cnn never posts my comments. any bets they won't post this either???

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

    Why doesn't Mr. Obama ask his Harvard advisers how to respond to calling the people in Pennsylvania "bitter" because they lost their jobs due to no fault of their own? I am sure the Harvard cronies he largely surrounds himself with will come up with an answer he can spin.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  16. BW, Dallas


    April 11, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  17. EvA

    Obama just OWNED McClinton! Let's see what they have to say now.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  18. Erik

    I'm bitter AND angry. While I'm still hopeful, if we continue on this current course, things will not get any better. Our country needs fundamental change. People who have it good now, of course they don't want change and they're going to attack Obama for this remark and try to distort it. But he is absolutely right. I don't want just new faces and a shuffling of the chairs. The way the game is played in Washington must fundamentally change.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  19. George

    Hillary needs to remove her rose colored galsses. When you can't afford to take your wife and kids to the movies , of course you are bitter and angry. Obama speaks hte truth!

    April 11, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  20. Monty

    Afraid he is not. The Force is STRONG within him.

    Obama 08

    April 11, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. Tennessee

    Ignorance is bliss and Obama supporters are very happy people

    April 11, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  22. Orlando

    Just watched the Situation room portion with Gloria, Jack, Jeffery, and Wolf discussing the Clinton and McCain campaigns comment's about Senator Obama remarks. It was balanced. CNN rocks!

    April 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  23. jay

    Obama speaks truth,,,,something Clinton and McCain cant relate to.
    He understands how struggling Americans feel.

    April 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  24. Richard

    The people who are considering "bitter" statement as condescending are just simply ignorant. No wonder they are easily fooled by Hillary. She will continue to make the big bucks and keep you all in poverty.

    April 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  25. walter tichana PA

    Im from PA and I am BITTER about losing my job to Nafta and China I am going to vote for Obama....By the way can we have that Obama Girl to take away this bitterness and frustration...

    April 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
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