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. SN from MN

    Osama just frosted the cake. He just became a one term senator!

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  2. David

    I totally agree!

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  3. John

    Obama is the person who would tell the truth, unlike McCain and Hillary who would say anything to get into White House.

    Obama 09'

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. dt

    b.o.get out of the race your not good for this country.its over obama.hillary all the way.

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  5. honkey white guy from cali

    yes once again he has taken the high road and those to went to the gutter!

    shame on both of them last night on American idol both Hillary and Obama gave great comments in regard to idol gives back. Both spoke of the good that would come from the donations and howmuch the chartiy was helping very positive.

    Mc can come on and first thing he said " it is a good thing American idol does not vote like we vote or MI and FL would not count, then moved right in to his economy package took advantage of a great moment on tv for his political good shame on you Mc Cain

    Obama 08

    April 11, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. Average Joe

    You people that say. "Well with the Republicans taxes are lower." Get a clue. Are prices cheaper now than before and are you actually saving money, or is the price of everthing through the roof? Just wondering. How is inflation going with you guy?

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  7. Obama in Touch

    McCain/Clinton 08 is out of touch. They value scoring political points over helping the American people. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing it and confronting it head on. We are on our way…Obama 08. God Bless the USA.

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  8. Charles

    Perhaps the 109 million dollar lens from which Sen. Clinton views the world explains her oblivia to the discontent of those that have and are suffering as a result of trade deals like NAFTA. This is why Sen. Obama is doing so well; he relates to the average person.

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  9. Brett

    An apology would have been nice, Mr. Obama. But it just goes to show you how egotistical, elitist, and arrogant you truly are. Finally, his true colors are starting to show! THANK THE LORD! "Hope" really does exist!

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  10. shan

    i have no idea what the clinton camp is talking about. their retort made absolutely no sense at all.

    the mccain camp made more sense but in my mind i don't understand ppl voting through their religion. everyone doesn't share the same religion so why are those ppl trying to force theirs on others?

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  11. Brenda

    It's it amazing that McCain and Clinton are ganging up on Obama. Obama must be winning.

    Obama 08

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  12. Brooklyn

    WOW! How dare Obama speak the truth again. He's so out of touch with political correctness.

    To some people the truth is a foreign language!!

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. Anette

    Thank you CNN now post the video, please. It's powerful!!

    Go Obama!!!!

    Tell the truth because the truth does not lie...Unlike some people.

    See God does not like Ugly Hillary/McShame!

    A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. - Walter Gagehot

    Obama '08

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  14. jb

    Jeff Toobin is just amazingly clueless. No he's not, he's a member of the liberal elite, just like Obama.

    Keep talking down to us, Jeff and Obama. That'll sway a lot of voters.

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  15. ABG

    A sign of arrogance is not taking responsibility for what he actually said and deflecting away from his remarks that were inexcusable to Pennsylvanians.

    He used the word "antipathy" related to our deep-seated ill will toward those who are different from us and immigrants. Who are the ones that are different?

    He chose to talk about bitterness. Why did he not explain his derogatory and presumptuous characterization of Pennsylvanians?

    A candidate running for President should not even have these thoughts let alone have the 'audacity' to express them behind closed doors to wealthy donors in CA.

    It makes me wonder what is really in his heart and mind. I hope everyone in PA sends him packing!

    He will never win in a general election!

    April 11, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  16. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    What a silly thing to even bring up! Of course people are bitter about their financial situation. Obama is right on target that people have been let down by Washington.

    April 11, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  17. Deidre

    Senator Barack Obama's problem is he is too truthful and some Americans like Senator Hilary Clinton only find truth in the poll numbers at the time. hey say he is out of touch, but he grew up very poor and understands the poverty and frustrations of people who have far less than they do. It's time Americans realize that we need a president that will tell us the truth pleasant or not.

    April 11, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  18. Stephy, Groton Connecticut

    Preach it, mr President!
    Let the pretenders know how is real in this campaign!
    Let them know who is not afraid to speak the truth, even if it might be tough for some!
    We need Change in this Country!!!

    April 11, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  19. James

    I'm from Pennsylvania and I'm one of those bitter people. I lost my job to a counterpart in Mexico. I retrained using 401K early withdrawals only to find the job market fading with each semester in shcool. As to health care, for those who lost their jobs COBRA is the alternative that only the wealthy can afford. What a joke. Obama has it on the money. Hillary needs to pay attention and listen instead of telling me how I should feel.

    April 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  20. Brian

    We wouldn't want change if we weren't bitter!

    April 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  21. Vig

    Here we go. Spin it around Obama. You said what you said. You revelaed yourself as the uppity upstart. Your brashness is not presidential. Your affiliations are questionable. You smile to our faces and insult us behind our backs. Take a hike.

    April 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  22. David Z

    This is just incredible. Someone tells it like it is and gets criticised for it? Why, because the veil of truth is pulled off and the raw facts come out? Unbelievable. I want to remind the Americans voting for their future in what will be a short seven months from now: Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. Anyone in their right mind and not making $50,000 a year knows what has happened. I see people who are in danger of losing their homes on a daily basis, and guess what- they ARE bitter. When you replace your $30.00 an hour job, and now are lucky to get a $10.00 an hour job- guess what? YOU ARE BITTER. Seeing what I see everyday crystallizes exactly what is wrong with the GOP, and Hilary Clinton. We may not have a "perfect" candidate in Senator Obama, but at least we have someone that tells it like it is.
    Let McCain continue to run on his Iraq policy in which he confuses the Islamic factions, and let Hilary go into her hyperbolic prose about the "danger on the ground" in Bosnia.

    April 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  23. max

    Obama is an honest man. he speaks the truth. he don't play politics of fear. He is right, there is bitterness is this country. Bush McCain war is enough bitterness and clinton is completely a divisive figure.

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. tda

    Obama is absolutely 100% correct...as usual. Not only are people bitter and frustrated about the politics of Washington, we are also sick and tired of the spin Billary, Bush III and THE MEDIA, particularly FOX News put on every word that comes out of his mouth. Keep on telling the truth Obama. The people hear you loud and clear and we ARE bitter and we ARE frustrated!

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  25. Ken

    He is so arrogant he can't bring himself to apologize for anything. Obama lives in a 1.6 million dollar home, if that's not rich I don't know what is.

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
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