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. Wes in KY

    Well, we all know what Obama clings to during tough times: a hate-mongering pastor and a sleazy landlord. Face it, guys…Obama is a joke. And he's bordering the level of self-parody with the fact that every time he faces any kind of heat, he delivers a speech full of his trademark overblown, over-dramatic "eloquence". It's so predictable. A sort of band-aid of pretty words that will make all the skeletons in his closet suddenly disappear.

    Mark my words, tomorrow he will deliver yet another uninspired bit of pseudo MLK/JFK mish-mash rhetoric to coo the media and further brainwash his supporters into believing he can do no wrong.

    It almost makes me want Hillary to lose the primary for the sole purpose of seeing Obama fall and fall hard come November.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  2. C Watson

    I think Obama's remarks are the most in touch with reality.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  3. j. Page

    This guy talks out of so many sides of his mouth it's rediculous. First of all if he were going to make those statements to side WITH Pennsylvanian's why didn't he MAKE the statements to THEM! Instead he goes to San Francisco and makes statements ABOUT them to the eliteist IN San Franciso...then tries as he ALWAYS does to gain political advantage with PA and IN by accusing his opponents. That has been HIS game all along...When HE wanted it to be about RACE all of a sudden statements from people like Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, and Gerry Ferraro who have ALWAYS been known to be in touch with all races....are Racist people and everything they said was turned into a racist comment...EVEN the statement (TRUE FACT) that Jesse Jackson won SC when he ran for President..but all of sudden..it was a RACIST statement... This of course gave those African Americans who loved Bill Clinton...because he had done so much for them while President a good reason to dislike him NOW and Vote for their boy Obama! Obama KNOWS a good defense is a good Offense...and he loves being on the Defense...it makes him look humble and needy..People NEED to WAKE UP....and think like he thinks...remember the OAKIE DOKE!! Where he is concerned where there is ALL that smoke....there IS some fire!

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  4. GDB

    Much ado about nothing. What's more important, Hillary's lie about Bosnia or Obama's descriptive comment about the mood of the PA citizens?

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  5. sarju

    you are just on the point and so smart, thank you that is why we love you.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  6. Ryan

    Obama always seems more honest. More heartfelt. Hillary spins. McCain seems to want to play it down the middle. Obama says what he sees as being real. That is being in touch. That is what the US needs.

    April 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  7. TKO

    Float like a butter fly, sting like a bee! This man Obama just got a vote from me.

    Ha ha! I'll I have to say is, "Bring it on!"

    Obama is inspiring in his message. Not only that, he has the conviction to follow through. I love this man.

    April 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  8. Lisa, AR

    Hillary and McCain both, need a reality check!!!!!!! It is obvious, they are the ones out of touch.

    April 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. Kat

    Funny, how the truth hurts. People ARE bitter and will only become more so as the economy continues to tank. It's not just PA, OH and IN, there are areas of NY that are in no better shape and haven't been in years. That's Hillary country. If she's so in touch with the 'common people,' she would know that and would have done something to help.
    People do turn to religion and the things they think they can control when things get really tough.
    Clinton and McCain are looking down on people who they don't think are smart enough to understand what Obama said. Of course, when statements are taken out of context, it's easier to bamboozle the listening public. Don't let them do that to you.

    April 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  10. hkitty

    Have we seen and heard enough from this guy yet? No matter how you slice it, it is insulting to small town people and they are smart enough to know when they are being insulted!

    April 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. Paco

    What is so bad about saying people are bitter? They are bitter. Who wouldn't be when their jobs are taken away and promises are broken.

    April 11, 2008 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  12. Wes in KY

    Open mouth, insert foot. Is anybody really surprised here? If he's not going to correctly and definitively renounce his pastor's words, why on earth would he apologize for his own?

    Some will say that it just shows Obama's "honesty" and "bravery", but moreso it shows how naive and foolish he really is for standing by such an ill-advised and careless choice of words.

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  13. Axel

    “THE BEST SCENARIO”, Obama elected as president for life, the Republican Party dissolved, and USA adopts socialism and a one party system. Jack Cafferty appointed minister of propaganda for life.

    “IMAGINE” free Prozac for everybody and no elections for the coming 30 years.

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  14. Jackie Nb

    Obama you should start thinking hard before you speak!!!! You will be the one responsible for your own fall!!! MCCAIN OR CLINTON, HELP AMERICA!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  15. Cherokee

    I understand loosing a job and being bitter. Been there, done that, and wore the tie shirt. My husband lost his job after working for the same company for over 28 years. We are still bitter and angry ten years later. If it wasn't for the grace of God and our families, I don't know what we would have done. Know one else came to our rescue. My husband is a hard working man, but that didn't stop him from being bitter. Obama did not offend me. He said what needed to be said. He is not out of touch with people. Stop the bull, nobody is doing a thing. I don't care to hear the sweet talk.

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  16. Zach

    People are losing their jobs everyday. Then the current administration gives tax cuts to the wealthy. All the while CEOs and oil companies are making millions and billions of dollars.

    Are these people frustrated? Yes. Are they bitter? Yes.

    Are Hillary and McCain denying that people are bitter? Seriously?

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. Charley

    Wow...when Obama speaks the truth, it's a problem. The Senator is walking a thin line that no other politician has never done before. This is reality America... Obama '08

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. Lee Bartholomew

    Not really sure what Hillary has to gain by arguing a point. She made a heck of alot more money than the Obama's. Wish she'd quite putting her foot in her mouth.

    April 11, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  19. J, Ca

    Too late Pal.

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  20. Dom

    Obama- +1

    McCain/Hillary: 0

    Seriously, does anyone respond to campaign crises better than this guy?? I don't know if it's because he's just a great politician, or if he seriously has good intentions behind most of his controversial actions. But it's freakin impressive

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  21. mamady sylla (london)

    The same old Washington is doing the same old thing over and over again. America needs a REAL change. America needs Barack to radically change the statuquo.m

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  22. Tom P

    Sen. Obama said nothing wrong, in fact, I believe people all over the Country are upset and bitter by the way our government has continued for years now not hear us on the issues that matter to us most. I know for a fact that my neighbors and fellow Oregons and I are upset and bitter and want CHANGE! OBAMA 08!!

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. Mel

    Senator Barack Obama is straight up and presents none of the feign outrage so evident in the tired old-Washington campaigns of Senator Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirator, Senator John McCain.

    What is sad is the way the media has spinned this story, offering little critical thinking except Jeffrey Tobin, Bill Schneider and Roland Martin (who try to be fair to both candidates). Of all the stories to "run with", this one was lame.

    It is one thing to "report" the news; it is entirely different to "mis-present", which is precisely what Senators Clinton and McCain tried to do, the same day President Clinton gets caught in a lie about the Bosnia story, media reports he is making more promoting the Colombia free trade agreement than even sacked strategist Mark Penn.

    Everyone talks about finding that one "thing" that will make Mr Obama unelectable. We'll they are not finding it. The equally important question is this: Is there anything that will make Senator Clinton unelectable?

    I am disgusted at the desperate efforts of President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    – Mel

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  24. Paul from PA

    This was a quick and decisive response by Obama. I love that about his campaign. He will not allow anyone SWIFT BOAT his candidacy. HIllary looks so so desperate that I actually feel sorry for her. But she'll need more than my symphathy to win my vote.

    Honesty. Integrity. Judgement. – You give me those qualities in a candidate and you'll have my vote.

    Obama has my vote.

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  25. MPA

    Great come back Obama!! Everytime one his detractors try to knock him down, he jumps back up and delivers a right hook to the jaw!


    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11