October 15th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama calls 'bitter' comments most 'boneheaded' move

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/15/art.obama.gi.jpg caption="Obama said his 'bitter' comment was 'boneheaded.'"](CNN) - It’s a presidential campaign during which Barack Obama has noticeably made few damaging missteps, but the Illinois senator says one in particular was downright "boneheaded."

Speaking to the New York Times in an interview set to be published Sunday, Obama said his now-infamous comments at a San Francisco fundraiser last April - during which he said some small town Americans "cling" to guns and religion - was "my biggest boneheaded move."

"How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward white working-class voters," Obama told the Times. "And I was actually making the reverse point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be frustrated because they've been ignored. And because Democrats haven't met them halfway on cultural issues, we've not been able to communicate to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our coalition."

The comments, first reported by a Huffington Post blogger 10 days before the crucial Pennsylvania primary, immediately set off a firestorm of criticism and charges from Sen. Hillary Clinton that Obama was "elitist and divisive."

"People don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them," Clinton said at the time of the comments many political observers thought had the potential to derail Obama's candidacy.

John McCain also called the comments elitist, though the Arizona senator has made little mention of them in his general election match-up with the Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama went on to lose the Pennsylvania primary by nearly 10 points, though it's unclear if the "bitter" comments specifically contributed to his defeat there. Exit polls showed Democrats didn't view Obama any more out-of-touch than they did Clinton, suggesting the New York senator’s elitist charges didn't stick.

soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Annie

    Isn't it amazing, (and disgusting) that when the majority of a country is begging for change, and get behind the man (Obama) who best represents the promise of that change – that Republican supporters claim this to be the 'most rigged election in history' – sad, sad sad.

    October 15, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  2. GP

    Obama possesses a first rate mind and exercises humility with grace and ease.

    American's will forgive an honest man that admits his own mistakes.

    How refreshing to have someone that trusts Americans.

    October 15, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  3. Anne E.

    Ever since this comment was first made, I believed it to be taken out of context. I believe he meant that when things seem out of control to voters, they tend to cling to those issues for which they CAN control by means of their votes, two of which happen to be guns and religion.
    Voters can't control/vote on economy-related issues when they aren't on the ballot, and when their jobs are being outsourced, etc.
    I never thought he misspoke in the first place - just another case of Republican snarky spin.

    October 15, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  4. AirDiva for OBAMA

    David October 15th, 2008 6:25 pm ET

    To Alice. The reason that this election is so "vulgar and nasty" is because more Blacks and young people are involved in this election than ones in the past. This should answer your question


    October 15, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  5. Belle2

    bs! Obama was making a point and this gun-toting, bible-thumping bigot got that message loud and clear. I have never owned a gun, seldom go to church, and try to be objective about all my fellow man. Still I know he was talking about me simply because I live in a small town and chose to vote for Clinton in the primary.

    This Presidential campaign has been rigged and I have no doubt that the Obama cult will win. I guess it is tit for tat; after all, Bush didn't win honorable in 2000 either. I never voted for Bush and I will never vote for Obama. They are two of the same as far as I am concerned. This is no longer a democracy; this country is ruled by the biased media.

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  6. MissouriMom

    The whiny WITCH Palin sure has used it, though.

    How can anyone stand her "Roseanne Barr" voice? And has ANYONE EVER heard her say something that isn't snarky?

    God, it's like Married with Children meets Roseanne... dumb content for a dumbed-down audience.

    I can't wait until this is over and they kick her whiney pathetic butt back to Alaska. Maybe she and Todd and the AIP can secede and start their own kingdom while they wait for Putin to rear his head and Armageddon to arrive.

    And isn't it funny how Republicans think equating the last 8 years as bad in ads IS THE SAME as McCain's ads saying "terrorists" and "liar"?

    You pathetic Republicans are just pissed off you are losing and you can't figure out some way to STEAL this election, too.

    Obama is leading because he's a LEADER, unlike John "grumpy old man" McCain.

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  7. mike

    Obama lovers: why you so hateful. America going to be communist under Obama. Good luck to you ,you bunch of empty followers. Where is our brain/?

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  8. Jerry

    I laugh when I hear people say that Obama is elitist. Compared to who? McCain? Palin? Yeah right. His comment was pretty much right on in my opinion. I think most people cling to religion instead of thinking for themselves and read books other than the Bible. Look at Palin, she is a nutcase but some people love her because she supposedly is religious and has good moral values. Keep thinking that Cledus.

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  9. Eight Is Truly Enough

    Reflection on imperfection and acceptance is how great men and leaders are born. That's my president to be and I love him!

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  10. MemeForObama

    This is the man I want for POTUS. Someone who's not afraid to say that he's made a mistake and own up to it. Compare that to GW and the last 8yrs of Republican government-Well their's nothing to compare their, not even close.

    I pray that the Lord will continue to fill Obama with humility and wisdom(You will make a great president)

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  11. shell

    someone said it earlier....Obama is refreshing. I look forward and will be proud to call this man my President!

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  12. The Republican Conscience

    Honestly, that's how i always understood it.

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  13. Rob indetroit

    Ari Fleischer needs to get the brown off his nose from following around Bush &cheney,

    OBama_Biden 08'
    OBama_Biden 08'
    OBama_Biden 08'

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  14. Republicans Hate America

    who cares about those christian extremists

    October 15, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  15. John

    Boneheaded yes. But that statement also revealed what Obama really thinks about non-urban Americans.

    October 15, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  16. texas democrat

    The only mistake he made was thinking that people were bitter in only that part of the country. I live in Houston and I am BITTER too!

    October 15, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  17. Nunya

    Yes, they were crystal clear.

    Crystal clear that he did not mean that they were stupid for clinging to such things.

    Crystal clear that he did mean they were using those as driving factors for voting only.

    Crystal clear that he was talking to a particular set of people in a particular situation.

    Crystal clear that it was a comment ripe for distortion by people who meant him ill will. That's why it was boneheaded.

    October 15, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  18. GOP - lost

    Republicans, instead of questioning the "liberal" media, question your "conservative" party. There has been very little conservative action in the last 8 years; blame yourselves.

    October 15, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  19. A Woman In California For Obama:

    To: Carol, NY October 15th, 2008 6:30 pm ET

    It's hard to know who Obama is when he keeps changing his story.

    He still has not told us why he stayed in Rev. Wright's church for 20 years listening to his racist and anti-American venom. The only conclusion to draw is that Obama agrees with the Rev. and will bring him into the White House.

    Carol, a man's religion is HIS business. My sister made a good point about this issue. She said how can people think he took his children to a church every Sunday to listen to racist talk when they have to visit their (white) grandmother and others in his family who are not black? Looking at their ages (at the time 6 and 9); they would have surely repeated some of those things. THEY DIDN'T AND THEY HAVEN'T. People get real...say what you want of the Obama's but one thing I don't think you could honestly say is they don't love and adore those girls. The way a person chooses to worship is THEIR business. It is not political. I would not want someone to ask me why I chose to attend a certain church. It will always be a subject off-limits.

    October 15, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  20. Biff

    MAN... look at all the right wingnut posters..

    this must be driving them NUTS.....

    most fun i ever had watching anythng in my entire life...

    October 15, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  21. Belle2

    BS! He meant exactly what he said "gun-toting, bible-thumping bigots" are the only white folks in small towns not voting for Obama.

    Count me in!!

    October 15, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. Gregg - Florida

    Obama is the better man for this country come Nov. 4th, McCain and Palin keep bringing up Acorn, and Ayers, yet when someone mentions AIG to palin, she runs away, and wont answer questions, Palin said in an interview, that past records are fair game, yet she still denies she did anything wrong in Alaska, and wont answer questions about her involvement with AIG, wich in my opinion isnt being investigated enough, she has ties to an organization thats wants unity away from the US? that is not Country First, and someone needs to dig deeper into this matter, so these so called followers will wake up from this spell she has on them............

    October 15, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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