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. JosBam

    Obama's ennemies will try again to make negatives on him...But that will not work..Americans are not stupid..Hillary just have to shut up and leave...Mc Cain is really out of touch because he is so old to understand what's going on nowadays..Change is coming in america..Let's support that..

    Obama ,for president

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  2. TH Better

    ENGLISH 101:
    Excerpt from Collins COBUILD Dictionary:

    2. If someone is bitter after a dissapointing experience or after being treated unfairly, they continue to feel angry about it.
    Examples: She is said to be very bitter about the way she was sacked...

    Warning: don't any body put up a comment here unless they have looked up the meaning.

    It is typical that among a group of people who lost their jobs, there must be some fraction of them who are bitter. If you are really meeting with most of these people, you should have come across some bitter ones.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  3. Jane

    Meanwhile, Hillary is ready to send more jobs overseas. Hillary will be outsourcing more US jobs to China, Indiana, and more through NAFTA to Mexico because that's just the kind of gal she is.

    Hillary, you are a disgrace to the country. People are bitter. They are fed up with you sending their jobs overseas.

    April 11, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  4. mark from pa

    hillary cannot understand when people are loosing their homes, their jobs and high gas prices because she is a millionaire. first of all she can't uderstand reality because she can't understand herself as a liar

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  5. Lys Wilcox

    Look folks America needs to hear the truth, Many people are bitter and
    unhappy and rightly so, but they tend to vote against their own itnterest.
    Again Obama proves to be a person who go after the truth rather than
    pander to polls and the media. CNN, be journalist not opinion makers. Why are
    we not delving into the connect between the Clinton and Columbia. Nafta
    is that not an interest to PA voters, did Hillary support it more than she is stating,
    I think so, why not delve into that instead of creating a controversy where none exist unles you create it,
    Polls in PA must be getting really close..

    I applaud Obama for telling the truth as he sees it and trying to create a dialoge.

    It bugs me when I hear the whole, he is so arrogant routine, it historically a label
    many people of color get when they speak their mind with eloquence.
    How dare you be educated and bold enough to run for America's highest office.

    Bravo Obama!

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  6. Joetta Shumaker

    I am from PA and i don't think what Obama is off. I hold God close to me , and I will stick to my guns. Everyone, is upset over the way things are going on. . God gave me the right to think and feel for myself ! Don't try to take that away .


    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  7. Serge the DEM

    Now that's what I'm talking about! This is one of the many reasons why I support him!

    Obama '08!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  8. Jane

    That should read Hillary will be outsourcing more jobs to China, India, and Mexico through NAFTA.

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  9. Thad Williamson

    score one for Barack on this exchange. The Clinton camp is practicing the politics of desperation, swinging wildly at any opportunity. This time they missed badly.

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  10. ron

    Didn't sound like spin to me. The spin was what they were putting on the word BITTER. Grow up Hillary

    April 11, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  11. Blake

    I stand by amazed at the fortitude of this man. He is speaking a message that rings out across America with an astounding voice that is perpetuated not by the media, but by the voices of the American people. I see history before us with a hopeful optimism that suggests that this country can be made better. It can be accomplished. It is just within reach. If Americans will lend their ear to this man and his message of hope. Hope for an American future for our children in generations to come.

    April 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. Adam


    He told the truth.

    A recent poll said 81% of Americans think the country's gone in the wrong direction.

    Obama's the only one who apparently knows what we're all going through.

    Not to mention, with the Clintons being $109 million rich and negotiating trade deals behind closed doors and McCain having 59 lobbyists in his campaign and talking about pre-emptive war –

    I don't think either one of them need to be talking about someone else being "out of touch".

    Good job.

    Obama '08!

    April 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  13. Rick Stacy

    How could you print this story and not directly quote what Obama said? What kinda of POS news organization are you people? Bias by omission? PRINT THE QUOTE THAT CAUSED THIS TO BE STORY!!! Will you even deem this appropriate for your blog? What is CNN a microcosm of a communist country?

    April 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  14. Dennis

    Good for Obama. The attacks on his use of the word "bitter" were pretty desperate to begin with. Unfortunately, that is what I have come to expect from the Clinton campaign. Considering how the past few weeks have gone for her, it is hardly surprising.

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

    I just now came to the conclusion that a vote for Obama is what I am going to do. He has hit the nail on the head. Americans are "fed up."

    I have not voted Democrat since Bill Clinton ran. I could see right through him and didn't approve of what I saw.

    I have been wavering between McCain and Obama.

    I can see clearly now that Obama is the wave of fresh air for our country's future.

    April 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  16. Independent

    I thought Obama was going to be different. He was going to run a different campaign, no slinging mud, etc.


    Well, once again.... he blew it! And his second story to explain it all didn't match the words of his original story! He's just making-it-up,
    as he goes along. Getting in deeper and deeper.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  17. Also Scared of Obama Supporters

    He said what he said to a group of elitists. He called us Pennsylvanians down. He can explain all he wants, but sometimes people say what they mean, and this is what happened here. Senator Obama sees small town people as lesser than, and certainly not equal to.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. Bob

    How telling that Senator Clinton's response is almost identical to Senator McCain's...

    Obama's stunningly quick work to turn a potential negative into a positive will win him even more uncommitted superdelegates. They don't want to endorse him now knowing that he will lose (but not by much) in PA, and thus, make their endorsements look weak.

    But, after PA, they will flock to him before he wins NC big.

    And Pelosi is right (for once), Hillary will not be his vice president. He would never be able to sleep with both eyes closed.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  19. tojoi

    People are fed up with the war. Fed up with lack of jobs. Fed up with gas prices. Fed up with the economy. He spoke the truth. And it was not disrespectful. It was raw and its the truth. Personally, the only respect I need from these candidates the their respect for my wallet. Americans want CHANGE. OBAMA! OBAMA!

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  20. Rob

    Weak jab at Obama (clearly did not read the transcript, only got fed the "controversial" line)

    Throws a Jab at Obama. (read ONLY the line at issue)

    Dodge, Weave, and then threw Uppercut

    I'll say one thing, its refreshing to see a candidate whose not going to say he mispoke or misunderstood, or was confused when confronted with something they said.

    He took what they threw, and threw right back in their face.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  21. Cheryl

    Good for Obama. nice reaction to Clinton trying to manipulate his message. Watch the Blitzer panel. Good to see someone gets it.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  22. Earl

    This is why I detest the Clintons and even though I am a registered Republican I will never vote for McCain. Anyone with common sense will see that what Obama says is totally true. People are bitter and fed up because they have heard lies after lies like those from Clinton about how they will fight for the little guy and yet nothing gets done. They need to just shut up and start being honest with themselves and the American people. It seems that only Senator Obama has a pulse on how unnhappy people really are with these Washington insiders

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  23. Hillary has serious issues

    If I'm being sold down the river by Hillary R. Clinton, when she poses as my humble, blue-collar, regular gal friend, I'D BE BITTER, TOO.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  24. deaf1983

    Amen, Go OBAMA!
    You said exactly what I am feeling.

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  25. Antoinette

    The term Bitter does mean hard to bear and causing pain

    I dont know about anyone else, but i think that losing all those jobs due to Clinton's Nafta business and the Columbian trade business would cause me great pain

    Im still failing to see the problem here?

    Keep trying to deflect the attention from Obama because you told 3 lies in a row that came because of YOU. Not McCain nor Obama

    And McCain should hush his mouth. You dont even KNOW about the economy and what the people are going through to say someone is out of touch

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11