October 16th, 2008
11:17 AM ET
13 years ago

Murtha apologizes for calling Western Pennsylvania ‘racist’

(CNN) - Rep. John Murtha, a supported of Barack Obama’s presidential bid, apologized Thursday for calling western Pennsylvania “a racist area.”

“While we cannot deny that race is a factor in this election, I believe we’ve been able to look beyond race these past few months, and that voters today are concerned with the policy differences of our two candidates and their vision for the future of our great country,” he said, in a statement issued by his office.

“Senator Obama has shown sound judgment and has presented us with a change from the failed policies of George Bush and John McCain. I believe he will win both Pennsylvania and the White House.”

Murtha’s apology came after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted a story on its Web site Wednesday which quotes the veteran Democratic congressman as saying, "no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area," and predicting that those attitudes could cost the Illinois senator on Election Day.

In a statement later that day, a Murtha spokesman defended the remarks, telling the Associated Press that "It's naive to think that race or gender doesn't play a role in a voter's perception of a candidate.”

Obama has struggled to connect with rural Pennsylvanians for much of the campaign. His infamous “bitter” comments - about residents of some of the state’s small towns - became a rallying cry for primary rival Hillary Clinton, who took that contest by a nearly double-digit margin.

In recent weeks, a YouTube video of labor leader Richard Trumka describing a racist reaction to Obama he encountered on a trip back to his western Pennsylvania hometown has become an Internet sensation.

"Our kids are moving away because there's no future here," Trumka says in a widely-circulated clip of his speech to United Steelworkers convention this year. "And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?"

The battleground state has not backed a Republican presidential candidate in two decades. Obama currently leads John McCain by 12 points – 52 to 40 percent – in the most recent CNN poll of polls out of Pennsylvania. Eight percent of the state’s likely voters remain unsure of their presidential pick.

soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. Nimi from NY

    Yes. We know what could happen. But he didn't need to be specific to this part of the Country. It exists every where in this country but we should not hold every one to the same standard. We are not there yet when we can say there are no racists among us. But we have come a long way. Give the American people some credit.

    October 16, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Tony

    He will apologize for this and not to the

    HADITHA MARINES?????? Which by the way have been found


    This guy is a joke!!!

    October 16, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. TK

    He only said what other people know to be true but are scared to say. I agree with him. Stop hiding your head in the sand. John McCane is running a racist campain. Sad but true!

    October 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. ted

    Murtha in house for 17 terms maybe Murthas the racist or
    is also part of the problem, good ole boy network

    October 16, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. always a voter

    Well, I understand everyone's concern but lets be real another 4 or 8 years of Bush government I DON"T THINK SO!!! I don't care if you are green, purple, orange or red! It's time that we stop looking at color. We are in the 21st century and I absolutely cannot believe people think they can still play that card! I would take a chance on anyone right now as long as its for something other than what we've been receiving-a kick in the rear end. HELLO PEOPLE we are the idots voting these people into office!! Think about what's best for you and your family! I know I am. PLEASE LET RACE GO wtih the 60's

    October 16, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  6. Thomas

    "Rep. John Murtha, a supported of Barack Obama’s presidential bid....”"

    Crikey CNN, do much copy editing these days? Even my highschool paper had spell checkers, and that was way before computers.

    October 16, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. Marc PDX

    I'm so tired of liberals race baiting in this election (even did it to Hillary and Bill!). The only racists I've seen are the ones trying to bring race into the dialogue. No one else is!

    October 16, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. the Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    Hey ACORN is a racist organization and I think Congressman Lewis is as well. It is a good thing he isn't from my neighborhood cause he couldn't get elected dog catcher.

    Obama's campaign is full of racists. I am not shocked that the welfare queens are donating their government checks to his campaign. Nice have the government fund your campaign while you turned down government funding. Great smart play.

    And Obama wants to screw "Joe the Plumber." I support Joe the Plumber as an all American man much like John McCain.

    October 16, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. randy

    Well atleast he is not accusing our soldiers of rape and murder.

    October 16, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. Thomas

    not a good thing for Murtha to say. He should have known better. It was a thoughtless and cruel thing to say.

    I don't think I will be voting for Murtha for President.

    October 16, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There are many people that have said that they have a problem with Obama. It is the question of do they not like his policies and ideas or the fact that it comes from someone who doesn't look like themselves? I hope that people only look at the ideas and the words said. It would greatly improve the way that ideas are received.

    October 16, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Charles Obrien - CT

    You are labeling people because they have a preference. That's totally unfair. For one thing YOU don't know how someone will vote. When they cast their ballot, it's private, secret and NO ONE ELSE"S Business. ( unless they care to tell) And even then, they may not tell you the truth. They can tell you what they think you want to hear. So stuff that in your sox and step on it.

    October 16, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  13. ez

    Early voting is the way to.

    Registered Republican "voted" Obama/Biden 08

    October 16, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. AJ

    Murtha is just following the tactics of the Obama campaign. They have been crowing for months that anyone that doesn’t support Obama must be racist. Obama's thin resume has nothing to do with it. I detest Obama and all of his supporters. I have always supported a Democrat but having already voted, I found myself unable to support either presidential candidate. I have come to the conclusion that Americans are too stupid for democracy. Whichever one of these candidates wins, it will turn out badly.

    October 16, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Billy

    There seems to be a trend that has followed this entire election...if you are not immediately ready to corronate Obama the one and true leader of this country then you are de facto racist.

    This week alone, CNN has posted articles explaining that race is the factor if Obama loses. I know it seems odd to the groupies falling all over themselves but peopel can actually disagree with Obama's platform.

    I know, I know...but he said CHANGE! Great. Maybe next time he can explain this great "change". Maybe he could also comment on if the Constitutional grant of authority to the President allows him to do some of those things. (Or maybe he could simply CHANGE the Constitution!)

    October 16, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. No Hillary = No Obama

    I guess he was taking his cue from Obama's comment that people in Pennsylvania are bitter gun toting religious fanatics. Obama and his elitism seems to be spreading like a disease.

    October 16, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Stacy

    My comments never show up...but I'll try again. Murtha is a joke...Accept an apology for that statement is unacceptable. How about all the Blacks that are voting for Obama??? Anybody calling them racist?? How do people like Murtha even have a job??

    I'm not voting for Obama and now its because he's black.....I've been pushed to the edge and I decided to jump....Go McCain!!!

    October 16, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Joel

    Perhaps tactlessly brought up, but there's a kernel of truth in it. (And yes, I'm from Western PA.) It's not generally Klan-style blatant racism, but a low-grade mistrust is there among a lot of otherwise good people. It will take a long time to get rid of, if it ever goes away.

    October 16, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Simmy

    I am convinced that anyone who is still undecided at this point, is voting for McCain, but is too ashamed to say so, given all the negativity surrounding him. That's sad. I decided the minute I heard the issues from the Handsome Harvard Hunk!
    Is this a great country of what?

    October 16, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. bob in L.A.

    There's a white elephant and a black donkey in the room.
    And the fact is there are poeplethat don't like black donkey's.

    October 16, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. Dave, Central Illinois

    Hey CNN censor, wasn't my comment pro-Obama enough for you? I have posted under different identities from different IP addresses both pro-Obama and pro-McCain comments. The pro-Obama comments are published more that twice that of the pro-McCain comments. The sad part is that you will not publish this to show how crooked you are.

    October 16, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. Indie Tom

    More racism from the party of hate and racism. The democratic party of the 21st century would make the KKK of old proud but make MLK turn over in his grave.

    Vote democrat the party that is obsessed with race and free speech (as long as it agrees with their speech) the party of freedoms and equality for women (as long as the woman is some one they approve) the party of open minds and kind hearts (heaven help those they don't agree with political, they become the Devils spawn in the minds of those 'free thinkers' and 'open minders')

    The most angry and abusive foul mouthed hate filled since the NSDAP.

    The psychosis is stronger than ever on the left and they are turning themselves over to it body, mind and soul. (Their hatred for Pres Bush has twisted their thinking and do not think with clear or level heads as a result)

    God help us all.

    Vote Democrat (the party of hate in 08)

    (any one leave a bad job only to get a job they thought would be much much better but it turned out to be much much worse?)

    October 16, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  23. therealist

    Get use to it America. You'll be hearing a lot of disparaging racism next year, with out apology.

    October 16, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  24. Uncle Sam

    I hear continued calls to focus on the 'real' issues, such as the current economic crisis, and away from matters of character, judgment, and leadership.

    Why do you think we're in this crisis?

    October 16, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  25. lil yogini, san diego (north county)

    Lacking of tact and he shouldn't have said it, but after visiting the area (my husband is from central/western PA) and talking to folks at local watering holes, I would have to say there is some truth to that statement. Certainly more so than areas like NY, MA, and California.

    October 16, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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