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. a fed up military wife

    How about Hillary apologize to the spouses and children of those serving who actually face the REAL threat of sniper fire every day for her and her husbands' lies about it and her joking about it on Jay Leno. There are those who have lossed loved ones to sniper fire and I promise you they are not laughing themselves to sleep at night.
    If this is the BEST that either the Clinton or McCain people can come up with– fretting over words that are TRUE...people outside of PA are bitter too about a lot of things. We don't need apologies; we need someone who is in touch with what's really happening. Then this Rebulican is now squarly behind Obama.

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  2. Ronaldo

    OMG!!! I am so flippin sick of The Billary show....Please let this be over soon??? Go away Billary you sicken me with your "kitchen sinkfu" techniques...

    April 11, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  3. Hillary Lies!

    What a brilliant response. This guy shows time and time again that he's not scared to face anything. Unlike Hillary who laughs off legitimate questions about special interests in Colombia, and only admits to 'misspeaking' when caught fabricating stories. Obama is such a breath of fresh air! It would be an utter shame to lose him.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  4. Lee Ohio

    Good response Obama, if anyone thinks he was condescending; wait till the GOP start attacking. Obama hit it right on the nose and then hit HRC and McShame across their empty heads. I am a blue collar working and fortunately I am still employed, but when my coworkers get laid off, I get just as bitter as they do. The only people who have trouble understanding what Barack is saying are those who have never struggled, or those who have never fought in a WAR.

    OBAMA in 08

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  5. Louis McKenzie

    If you were on the verge of losing your home due to problems with your mortgage contract would you Optimistic? If You lost your son or daughter in a war that should never have been started would you be jumping for joy because John McCain was on the way to save the day? Especially when he said many people buy houses they know they cant afford and may well need a kick in the pants to get into a house they can afford. SHould they be happy with the idea of bailing out Bear Sterns but letting Ida Gonzales lose her home at age 63? Why are Clinton and McCain campaigning against Obama? Is it that McCain knows he will win against Hillary, but is uncertain about his chances against Obama?

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. tojoi

    What did he say wrong. People ARE FED UP.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  7. karen from philly

    That's what losers say because McCain and Hillary have more to hide than Barack.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. Sara

    The honest truth spoken from someone who truly understands. Bitterness and despair DO turn the affected to other issues as a much needed distraction. This is not looking down, this is saying I understand and I do not find fault with your reactions.
    Clinton's opportunistic drivel simply cheapens her appearance.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. Mike

    So Barack Obama said that people that have been suffering economically for years are bitter towards the politicians that have failed to alleviate their situation...and who wouldn't be bitter????? As much as other campaigns seem to be dismissing it, bitterness is a real emotion. People tend to experience it when they have been let down time and time again by those they are told to trust. People always complain that politicians are liars and they aen't honest, well why do you think that is??? Because the truth hurts sometimes, and if you tell the truth, you're not honest...you're out of touch.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  10. RJL for USA

    There is nothing elitist about identifying the problem instead of igoring it. Both Clinton and Bush Administrations have ignored the problem for too long and Americans have accepted this very low standard of service from these "public" servants. It would be nice if we could guarantee that McCain's administration would be much different, but again the American people are being asked to compromise.

    Clinton and McCain, everything is not well with the unemployed because of faulty free trade agreements like NAFTA or the homeless because of the foreclosure crisis. But neither of these candidates would know this because they are lining their pockets with money fromn the lobbyists and other Washington cronies for speaking engagements and such.... Just the facts and the TRUTH please!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  11. erika

    Hey Obamamaniacs,

    Ever heard the expression, he's not laughing with us, he's laughing at us?

    You can't defend this. If he said it to a group of hard-working people struggling to make ends meet it would be more defendable.

    Instead, he said it to a group of affluent dot commers in San Francisco. The elitism is on the wall.

    CNN – please post this even though I speak ill of the Obama-god.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  12. mike

    Is he wrong? Noone in PA is bitter? And they deserve to be. Good lord, are we going to condemn him because he will speak honestly? Clinton, she of the 109 million over the past 5 years, says everyone she has seen is upbeat and still fighting despite two decades of an economic beatdown. BS. Lets get real. Real people get bitter when things are bad for a very long time. This is not an insult...

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |

    O MY GOSH!!!! YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!!!THE CONVENTIONAL CORRUPT ONES ARE COMINGOUT TO TRY AND SAVE THERE IMPENDING DOOM, HRC YOU HAVE LOST THE NOMINATION YOU ARE A LIAR!!!!!!! WHEN WILL PEOPLE START TO DARN!!! SEE THAT. john mccain your policies will jsut ruin the usa into 2nd world status and destroy our economy, your defense is weak as twigs...prepare for youtr doom when obama astronomically defeats you. Obama talks the truth cause i hear it too, if people don't see that and will be easily swayed by HRC LIES!!!! and John Mccains poor policies they don't deserve to have there problems solved Because they have a chance NOW! Vote OBAMA and lets get things back in order.

    April 11, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  14. Ed from Pa

    Exactly! Why do you think voter turnout has been so low before this critical election? Bush v. Gore? Bush v. Kerry? Clinton v. Bush? Clinton v. Dole? There have been no candidates of any value in the last 20 years!

    People are fed up with this! People are tired of their government not speaking for them – so people have been apathetic towards the government, and towards politics, for two decades. The one political story everyone remembers most from the last 20 years is Clinton's affair with Lewinsky! Doesn't that tell you something?

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

    It's not about the "BITTER" it's the other degrading comments, kinda like they are too stupid, to realize when help is their, and they need to hold onto their guns, religion, and perceived racism!! Gross Candidacy Mis-speak in the first degree!!

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  16. CJ

    Clinton trying to take the heat off her stupid husband's remarks today. That's all. This time, like all the others, will once again backfire on her and McCain in a big way. Barack's fed up with their crap and I for one wish he wasn't such a gentleman sometimes. I hope he REALLY lets loose on them one day soon.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  17. Matt M.

    Tell 'em, Barack. It looks like Clinton and McCain are teaming up now with their ludicrous spin. In no way were Barack Obama's comments belittling. I bet you anything you could find a sound bite of Hillary saying the same thing in Ohio.

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

    "San Francisco remarks"!!! I am so tried of hearing that crap. I'll admit that there are some freaks in san fran but enough already. The repubs always say something is from San Francisco is they dont agree or want to trash someone. It is getting old. McCain I thought you were different.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  19. Boye

    I don't think by laughing at the Columbia question, Hillary was respecting the small town people who lose their jobs will she (and her husband) make loads of money off their situation. The word "bitter" can range from disappointment to anguish depending on your point of view. Of course Hillary will bring out the negative just to raise her chance at Pennsylvania.
    How about Hillary run based on her merits and not try to bring down everyone around so she can look better. Oh I forgot, she misspoke about her merits.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  20. Worried About America

    Why is it so hard for people to accept the truth? Would you have preferred a running from snipers story?

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  21. big shot

    Four years of a cocky, mocking big shot in the white house is plenty long for most of us Americans.

    We do not want to coronate King Obama.

    Let go with a down to earth, human leader.

    Hillary may not be perfect, but she does not pretend to be and she does not talk down to people. And given her superior intelligence and command of facts, if anyone should feel so inclined, it would be Hillary.

    Fortunately she is more concerned with improving the lives of all Americans, then in trying to outdo them with her brilliance.

    Obama is so self-impressed... and it is totally unbecoming.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  22. Mark

    Hillary is afraid because she realizes that bitterness drives change.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  23. Lucas, Nashville TN

    Again Clinton cannot handle the hard truth. And look at the responses from the Clinton and McCain camps!!! How cookie-cutter! Looks like some XEROX at work, eh Hillary?

    Someone should point out how the term "small town America" is being abused and used so disingenuously by those two!

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  24. Soloman Torres

    I'm a Erie, PA Republican and I find myself in an uncommon position - defending Senator Obama. In my opinion, the only controversy here is that McCain and Clinton are so out of touch that they don't realize that Obama is right. People are bitter about the unresponsiveness of their government, and they do vote on issues that don't really affect their lives directly, because those issues appeal to raw emotion and tap into their frustrations. The real controverst here is that Sens. McCain and Clinton think the people of "Main Street America" are too stupid to understand the point Obama was making. Talk about condescension!

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  25. SunSon

    CNN Morons:

    He is not "defending". He is counter attacking. Geez.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
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