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. Eric

    Over 80% of people in the country think it is on "the wrong track," yet people are not bitter?

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  2. Josmt

    Watch the Obama supporters take this as the holy grail... When are people going to wake up and pay attention this guys is nothing but words, and will say anything to anyone to please them... and not be consistence...

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  3. pilkington

    You have completely failed to accurately quote what Obama said. Instead, you have quoted him subsequently paraphrasing his actual comments. You should know better. What he said was:
    " And it is not surprising then that they get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them or anti-immigration sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
    His comments were audiotaped and can be heard on the Huffington Post blog or Ben Smith's blog at Politico.com.
    These statements are elitist, condescending and stereotype a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds. Very unifying, indeed!

    April 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  4. Terry Williams

    This is the way Obama has been in the entire campaign. He's arrogant, elitist, and condescending to ordinary folks.

    His speech on race was his "teaching moment" where he felt the nation needed a lecture about racism in this country, and he felt he's the best person to give it. He didn't take any responsibility for putting J. Wright in his campaign. He didn't take any responsibility or not getting up or talking to j. Wright about his sermons.

    When a survey he took when he was a senator surfaced that showed he has extremely liberal views, he blamed his staff for filling it out incorrectly. It was in his handwriting. He doesn't take responsibility.

    He often says that "to know him is to love him." So when he talks about the poor white folk in PA who don't support him, he blames it on the fact that they've been so jaded by their hardships that they use their frustration to not vote for him.

    Obama doesn't really know how he sounds to ordinary folks. He doesn't know how he sounds to Reagan Democrats in PA. He's putting those people down. He basically says, if you don't vote for him, its because you've got a problem.

    Obama really needs to stop that or he'll be in for a big surprise in the GE.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. Tt

    This is what makes Obama's candidacy so attractive.The ability to respond in an honest and candid manner without being offensive.We all know that people are generally frustrated with the government and they tend to hold onto what is most dear to them especially religion.
    Not just the small town Pennsylvannians.So, for Hillary to try to spin it underlines again the length she will go to say anything that will hurt her opponent.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. D. Brown, Texas

    I believe all Americans are looking for a president that truly represents the idea that originally was upmost in the minds of early Americans: "We are of the people, by the people and for the people". I honestly believe that Senator Obama is all that, and so much more!
    I am an American. My father and other relatives and ancestors fought for our people. I beg Americans not to put the Clintons back in office. They are so criminal, it is not even funny! My dad was retired military, and gave me so much information, before he died, regarding the Clintons, and their rise to power. I'm sorry, but the truth should come out now, if reporters will truly investigate the Clintons, and not let them keep riding on their condescending lies. Their agenda does not end with the White House. Please check this out.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  7. David Z

    Whoops, I meant $50,000,000!

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  8. Orlando Jacinto

    Senator Obama was not forced to defend comments he made at a recent fundraiser. Senator Obama is being honest and telling the voters what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. The comments weren't offensive. CNN is allowing itself to be a pawn to the Clintons. The best political team on TV. Gimme a break. I'm switching to MSNBC!

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  9. Jeff

    Yes, truth to power. Come on people, get over yourselves. It's time for real change.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  10. Democrats United

    Just watched the yutube video.... SLAM DUNK for Obama. Made Clinton and McCain look like old fools. This is why Obama will be the next president of the United States.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  11. Claude

    There is do defense Obama, you're done.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  12. W.H. Thomas

    What I also find funny is that Obama made these comments last Sunday...Why is it just now getting out now? And as a "blue collar southern democrat" I would be very "bitter" if my job was shipped overseas. I am still trying to figure out what the uproar is about.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  13. Tanya K

    Obama is responding to his own foolishness in his very inexperienced and childish way. He seems to get backed in a corner by his own double talk and starts pointing out everyone else's flaws, instead of being responsable for his own. He will more then likely be the Democratic nominee. He will lose to John McCain, because he only has the vote of younger Americans that is obvious by the commentary. He and his supporters will be responsable for four more years of a downward spiral of America.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  14. Mary WA

    Semantics- Fed -up is an easier term to swallow than bitter. The point was legitament. Once again Hillary is acting like a Republican opponent. This is to be expected from McCain-lame but expected. Hillary is a disgrace to her party. I have lost all respect for her. I don't want her as Vice President next term or President in 2012. She wants McCain to win and it is becoming obvious. If the superdelegates and DNC don't act soon we can say hello to President Mc Cain next year.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  15. Chris in Va.

    "People are fed up."
    Amen Senator Obama.......Amen.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  16. John Halverson

    Obama is out of touch? isn't he the same guy that has energized thousands and thousands of people to get back into politics? isn't he also the same guy that has out raised McCain and Hillary put together with donations from average Americans? it is absolutely hilarious to think that McCain says someone is out of touch. Hillary can take her $109 million and her elitist mentality and lie to another country I am tired of hearing all of her lies and "misspeaks" it drives me crazy.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  17. gman

    Clinton and McCain...if I lost my job and home and saw my government send my job overseas and bailed out corporate American...you better believe I would be BITTER!!! Do you two really understand what everyday Americans...not just small town America is going through? I can't believe you two are just that stupid!!!

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  18. larry

    case closed , fine somthing else try and hype up. Hannity of fox news

    April 11, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  19. Linda-Texas

    Go Obama, to hell will Clinton and McCain.....You are unstoppable and they will try any and everything to break u... especially Hillary & Sean Hannity he was so excited to get that information. I'm glad you did not apologize, apologize for what? people are mad, pissed and bitter....Clinton is out of touch and needs a vacation...I hope the people of New York vote her out.....

    You Go Obama & Pennsylvaina!

    April 11, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  20. Independent

    I'm satisfied with his approach and very glad that apparently this isn't something he's going to back down from.

    You've got to know what he's saying. People don't vote (or at least haven't for a while) economic policy because politicians lack the ability to explain the economy is comprehensible terms. People vote what they can understand and the politicians pick up on it and craft carefully polled polarizing statements around that.

    April 11, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  21. Daniel

    Yes OBAMA. How could anyone not be bitter? I think both Clinton and McSame are completely out of touch with reality. If anybody thinks people are not frustrated or bitter, then they need to wake up and smell the coffee. If you lost your home to foreclosure or lost your job and can't afford to pay for gas anymore, you will be upset, frustrated and bitter too. This is the kind of president we need. One who will tell us the truth and not play on our emotions. Both Clinton and McSame made millions last year so they fine. They don't think people are upset.

    April 11, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. Doni

    First, points for the quick response. Swiftboating will not be a factor if he keeps this up.
    Second, he has been correct since he first stated the issue. There are a lot of single-issue voters, and it is hard to reach out to them, because all they care about is that single issue.
    Finally, if you think this is him being tough, wait until he gets angry. You won't like him when he's angry.

    This was a generalization. As everyone knows, if you make a generalization, there are people who undoubtedly do not fall into that category. But, it's not like he created a situation that does not exist. It's common, and likely in the democratic race, you found one single issue that one candidate agrees with that the other doesn't, and that's why you support who you do. And that is why he's right.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  23. Linda

    Obama speaks the truth and voters appreciate that. The truth is something that is unfamiliar to Clinton and confusing to McCain. Obama is the only candidate that is willing to deal with the real issues and the tough issues. The choice is easy–Obama for president.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  24. TheONE

    Obama is dead on once again. It's been a joy to watch Obama mature and evolve in such a short time. He has EARNED my vote and deserves the opportunity to lead this country!

    April 11, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  25. Gerry

    Absolutely true! Go Obama!

    We, the people, are so proud of you!

    April 11, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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