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. patrick

    CNN, please post this one, it would be a first.

    I have to speak up and say that I'm exhausted by watching the Orwellian Doublespeak in this campaign. Obama says the sky is blue, and somehow it becomes "Obama claims no color but blue is acceptable, we should be outraged!"

    Now he points out that politicians pander to people's fears and invent hot-button issues to distract them from their eventual do-nothing approach to economic disparity, and somehow that's a bad thing?

    This is totally insane! We're democrats, not republicans! We should be praising his remarks TO THE RAFTERS!!! This isn't an offense, IT'S OUR PARTY PLATFORM, for pete's sake!

    April 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  2. Jed in Texas

    "I mad as hell,and im not going to take it anymore".From the movie"Network".If the truth hurts ,so be it.

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  3. A. Harrison, Atlanta Georgia

    You have yet to learn Barack to think before you speak. You and Michelle don't care what you say. I don't want a President who can start a conflict by not thinking before they speak.

    HILLARY 2008!

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  4. Drew, FL

    It figures that the Billary spokesman, would spin it that way. That's what he's paid to do. As for Tucker, I don't put much stock in what he says. His show was cancelled after all. 'nuff said.

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  5. Steve from PA

    Its about time we have someone like Obama to tell it like it is. I don't need or want a apology from Obama for telling the truth. He's not running on behalf of old politics. He running on behalf on "NEW" politics. I am bitter that jobs are being shipped away, gas prices are skyrocking food is expensive....Come on everyone the media is and i repeat "IS" going to blow this out of context. Trust your gut instincts and vote for CHANGE.

    OBAMA '08

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  6. katherine

    It is ironic that John McCain takes issue with these remarks considering that this is precisely the reality that his campaign adviser Carl Rove counts on to convince people to vote against their own economic interests. Call it elitist and condescending if you want to, that doesn't make it any less true.

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  7. caroline

    It is so sad to see how nasty is this campaign and how much anger there is in human been only to be a winner....I support Obama, I don't like and I have never liked the idea to have the Clintons back ....all the nasty and the anger against Obama is disgusting, he cannot say one word that Hillary doesn't like that it will used agaist him. What did he say so terrible?? I really believe that most of America didn't want him as President and every single word will be used against him.

    It is so sad for me who had the dream of America.....I am not so sure it is a dream anymore....

    April 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  8. Elizabeth

    Good for you Obama. I heard pundits saying "more to come on Obama's attack of Pennsylvania." Oh how our MSM love to distort.

    And you are absolutely right. We no longer trust all the promises. Clinton has the nerve to say you are out of touch when her husband accepted an $800,000 fee from the Columbians as to the CAFTA trade deal?

    Talk about out of touch!

    Go Obama 08!

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  9. bob smith

    the true obama is slowly coming out,and the more I learn about this guy and his friends{rev wright,william ayers,reszco} the more scared I am for america

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  10. PA VOTER

    Right on Barack...America needs you...We got your back come April 22nd...

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |

    I think Obama is right on this one....as a small town guy, i am frustrated by WASHINGTON. It's true many of us fall back to our comfort zones for inner peace or rather self satisfaction.......and frankly i think he's just being honest about it.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  12. A Democrat for McCain

    We need a leader, not a liar, or Obama, a politician willing to sell his soul for a bigger backyard – how sad is that!
    I'm disappointed by both of my party's candidates. McCain looks better every day.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  13. Celina Bean

    Politics is really sad. I'm watching Hillary and McCain takes Obama's statements out of context and make them appear to be what they want them to be. Again, we're talking about Bosnia again and Hillary changes the subject to Obama. This is so silly and people have sense enough to see right through all of the rhetoric coming from Hillary and Mccain. Remember, Pensylvania is coming up, so Hillary needs to lie to get obama's numbers down. You know, anyone who would take these statements and change their vote, were not very strong in the first place. And then you turn on Fox, and there you have crazy sick Sean Hannity still obsessing over Obama because he happens to be a black man and Sean can't stand that, but doesn't have the guts to say that he just doesn't like black people, especially as his president. It is sad.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  14. way to go Obama!

    you have hit the nail on the head. i dont know if you really can change our country, but i at least know that you are going to try - the right way, and for the right reasons.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  15. jm24

    Coming from bitter Hillary, nothing surprises me. Obama was right on in his speech. Hillary/Bill/John are all one and all 'out of touch'. I think something must be about to break news in a big way for Billary to be trying to get the media down Barack's neck.

    Just go away already.

    And by the way Hill, Bill is really an Obama supporter and is going to divorce you after you lose this nomination. Hope you don't become bitter, you old bat.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  16. Doyle - MI

    Mr. Obama is on point and in touch with America. Clinton and McCain are stuck in the political twilight zone.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  17. Chuck

    How desperate Hillary and McCain must be........Barack was not being elitist but truthful. Give us all a break and start criticizing issues of substance.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  18. Kim E.

    I love how the Clinton and McCain camps are trying to paint Obama's comments as "condescending" and "out of touch". He hit the nail right on the head, and , being old-school Washington politicians, they try to divert and distract. They are indeed out of touch with the public. I really hope PA and the rest of the primary states realize what they are up to. Don't vote for more of the same stuff. Let's change this.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  19. lori altoona Iowa

    He has totally knocked himself out. He repeatedly says offensive things...and coming in 3s and 4s....makes statements and this one just puts him over the top....."typical white people", everyone else is racist for any little comment that he deems racist and you people are calling others nit picky. Get a grip people.....Your guy just stepped off the plank. These people know what he said about them in California. He was talking down about them to wealthy donators to his campaign.

    Obamas people attack attack attack and guess what he cannot back peddle on this one and the media knows it. Stop hating. Accept the loss and Obama needs to get out of the RACE!! Oh my god, did I just say the word RACE....I must be a racist. Oh and I said get out of the RACE how does that make you all feel. Offended right. Stop saying it!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  20. independent

    so tired of obama doing the two-step around, well, everything.

    April 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  21. greg

    Obama should change his middle name from Hussein to The Truth, because that's what he speaks.

    Thank God For Barack.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  22. Richard

    Hillary and McCain are saying that Obama's statement is condescending. Bill Schneider jumped on the band wagon. What a shame. Obama initially did not elaborate so they gave their own interpretations. I am happy he had a chance to explain himself. In a nutshell, the people are bitter about loosing their jobs and are frustrated will the current political system.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  23. Anyvic

    WOW!! Obama, It took you what 5 hours or more to come up with this? It this the best answer you could give after consulting with your team of advicers? What a shame.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  24. Chris

    LOL i find it funny that one can find that offensive..And spin to that he is saying that americans or small town america are not resilient or optimistic? Then republicans say that he is an elitist and bitterness = gun ownership and more religious faith..

    What i hate is that politicians think that the American people are stupid enough to think that we don't know what the game of politics is!!!!! like we don't know why the clintions are going to say or the republicans are going to say or obama might say when there is a negative that they much pounce on.

    What Barack said is true People for the most part Don't care(in reference to his statement)s..why you think americans don't get out and vote!!!!! Cause they don't believe in the government is looking out for them. So they care about whats close to home and thats why they stay home on election night..cause No one cares about me!!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  25. Christine D

    Obama can't talk about anyone being rich. How did you get a 1.6 million dollar house?

    He is so arrogant!

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
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