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. indieskip

    Oh my lord, are we really witnessing the melding of Clinton and Mccain supporters on this? I wonder if this is Obama's actual strategy, to fight the Clinton and McCains together.

    April 11, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  2. Taif

    I am sick and tired of political opportunists coming up with crap like this. And, ironically, the people that get taken the most by it are the ones you would think should know better. Now, is it denigrating to be bitter, when your government tells you one thing and does another, or, when your government is peeing on your head and is telling you it's raining? And, with all the shootings this country has experienced in schools and workplaces in recent times, isn't it only right to, at least, acknowledge the underlying causalities? I can only commend Obama for recognizing and empathizing and having the courage to want to do something about it.
    Now, here's the man: "I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania. I know what’s going on in Indiana. I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up. They’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.”

    April 11, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  3. NObama

    I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA! He's a slimey, two-faced, "do as I say, not as I do" liar!

    HILLARY CLINTON 2008 – The ONLY choice for President!

    April 11, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  4. Alex

    Let's stop twisting words here. Listen to what Obama said and it is clear his comments are condescending. Somehow, middle America is out-of-touch with the San Francisco elite he was speaking to at his fundraising activity last week. It is clear he is not comfortable having to go ask for votes from the "gun", "religion" folks in Pennsylvania.

    April 11, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  5. Paula, Brookville Ohio

    I live in small town Ohio. Yes what Obama says is stating the truth however, I don't own a gun or go to church because I'm frustrated with the way things are in my town or country. I go to church because of my faith and my own morals and values. I don't cling to those things!!! He insulted small town America plain and simple!! This man has very poor judgement to lump small town frustration with owning a gun or going to church! Big case of open mouth insert foot!!

    April 11, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  6. laura b. (D-GA)

    take that Clintain!!

    April 11, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. George

    What can we expect Hillary or John McCain to know about frustration and bitterness? When is the last time either one pumped their own gas or missed a mortgage payment? When was the last time a collection agency called and they couldn't answer their phones? McCain flies around in a private jet and Hillary gives $10million to charity. Talk about out of touch.

    April 11, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. Ryan

    How dumb do McCain and Clinton think we are?


    April 11, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  9. Mandi Locke

    Right on, Obama! Clinton and McCain are both grasping for straws and it really makes you wonder if they are on the same side. I mean, doesn't it sound like the same person wrote both of their responses?

    What McCain and Clinton really do have in common is the same old tired aproach to politics that hasn't worked in over a decade. It's hard to get it when you eat your cereal every morning with a silver spoon.

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

    Obama's not being condescending to anyone. He's addressing the burdens laid onto us all through media; they way certain ideals are celebrated and discussed. Ideological stances –and using them as political propoganda– are what got Bush into office in '04. It's complex, abstract thought that easily draws fire. It's funny to hear Hillary and McCain have the same responses...just goes to show you how entrenched and reactionary the ol' established guard is. Bush has a 28% approval rating...after 8 years, people are bitter. I am and I have a job. doesn't mean I don't have hope for my country.

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

    obama's just upset with PA because he losing in PA. hillary will win PA. he can't win the big states against her, let alone mccain in november if he is the nominee. stay in the race hillary, his elitist attitude is showing.

    April 11, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  12. busterdog

    Grasping at straws once again! How utterly ridiculous of Hillary to make such a big deal. And, McCain saying Obama is out of touch? That is equally as ridiculous as Obama is nore in touch with Americans than either of them. Having many friends in Pennsylvania, the truth of the matter is that they are Indeed "bitter!" That was not a negative comment it was one which accurately describes how many Pennsylvanias feel and Obama told it like it is. Does Hillary realize (most likely not and she could care less) how stupid she is looking?

    April 11, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  13. Dave

    Obama is condescending because he said people are bitter?? I am bitter because of high gas prices. I am bitter because of our economic crisis. I don't think he is looking down us. I think he is respecting our feelings and emphatizing with us. This surely tells me Hillary and McCain are out of touch with the average American citizen.

    Hillary and party, please stop twisting the words of Obama, it just makes you look worse. I am disgusted with Hillary and her comments.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  14. Gail

    Context is everything, but the media never provides it .Though his words now are not exactly as they were in the clip provided by the media , he fleshed out exactly what he meant and you know I believe him. Why? Because unlike Hillary he hasn't lied about sniper fire and unlike Mc Cain he hasn't trade his integrity for a nomination.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  15. PA Voter

    Obama is right. I myself make under 75K and I am bitter with the Bush's and the Clinton's. And I know if the McCain's get in the White House, I will be bitter at them also.

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

    This is much to do about nothing.... Senator Obama spoke the truth... people turn to religon when things are bad financially and in their social life.... look at our history, if you so dare.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  17. Carolyn

    I agree with Obama.

    Obama 08

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  18. Lisa, AR

    I guess the media thinks we are ignorant or stupid. Are people not losing or have losted their jobs???? Or are we not heading for , if not already, in a recession? This man is telling the truth. I live in small town America and there is definitely bitterness and resentment. We have been fed so many lies throughout the years, we can't stand to hear the truth. Wake-up
    He should not apologize for telling the truth. As far as I know, PA is a part of the USA and the rest of America is in trouble. The trouble started with leaders like Bush and Clinton(NAFTA). The truth hurts. We don't need leaders that lie or ignore the TRUTH!!!!!!

    GO OBAMA!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  19. Di

    Obama, you're a wolf in sheeps clothing, but the truth is now surfacing daily in the Rezko trial notes...you really should pick your frends a lot better, bone head. You are a liar and cheat and you do not deserve to be a junior senator, never mind running for PRESIDENT! You mix wih crooks and biggots and your "chickens are coming home to roost"...I'm sure your pastor Wright with pray for you, but do nt expect the people to vote for you.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  20. Melissa

    Barack-in my small Pennsylvania town the steel industry went away during the regan administration not the Bush and Clinton years when you were about 18. CNN said Obama is "so intouch" he lived in Indonesia-he knows what it is like to grow up poor.
    We're not bitter, we're not frustrated. We have survived and found new ways to make a living. Health care and higher education are two areas-did you know that since you are so in touch?

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  21. Wanda, Tacoma

    I don't think the issue is not so much whether or not the people of Pennsylvania are bitter. This issue is a man running for President and working to get the votes to make that happen had the audacity to call them bitter. You don't call people names when you want their support.

    Bill Clinton said to people "I feel your pain" when he ran for President and we believed him. We don't believe an elitest man named Obama feels our pain. Hillary does feel pain that people have to live with these days, but she also looks through that pain and sees the faith, courage and support those people have to believe that better days will come when she becomes our next President.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  22. Lovely in VA

    He's absolutely right on everything he said. Glad he gave a quick response and now we can get back to Billary's lies and coverups! Funny how Obama's statement was made almost a week ago but just now making news and it's such a HUGE disgrace per Clinton/McCain. Right... If it was sooo HUGE, why wasn't it a headliner last Sunday night.
    Go away Clintons/McCains – NO ONE except the 'out of touch' crowd want you around, listening to your lies and stupid, idiotic comments. You guys are the ones 'OUT OF TOUCH'. Get a clue... your both nothing more than corrupting empty suits.

    OBAMA 08 –

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  23. go away

    Obama is just a slick wealthy politician who has a sense of entitlement and little respect for the hard-working people of America.

    He appeals to the easily impressed American Idol youth who have way too much time and money on their hands.

    Talk about elitism and arrogance.

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  24. Allen in NC

    He is 100% correct...... It took over a decade and hillary to run for president, Before the american people finally are getting to see what really happened to all our jobs...... Can we all say NAFTA?.... Bill's baby that hillary supports.... This is why we/the american people are BITTER...... Bitter at politians such as the clintons....

    April 11, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  25. Doug, Florida

    Silly season in Politics

    Go Obama

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