October 16th, 2008
11:17 AM ET
12 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. FreeNLovIt

    the last time my cousin went to a Revival, she heard a great story in MN. Basically, it was late night and the pastor was on his way out to go home. He heard a voice and he followed it. He went out of his way to go buy a gallon of milk at a gas station. Then he followed the path of the voice and for sure, he thought he was ONE CRAZY pastor. He travelled all the way to a winding road and up a beated house. He knocked the door with the gallon of milk with him. A HIspanic lady opened the door and thanked God and him for the MILK. God has answered her prayer.

    He finally understood why, he was directed to buy a gallon of milk.

    October 16, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. Doug in New Mexico

    Lets face the facts. There are areas in this country that cater to racist ideology. When the McCains will not even look at the Obamas or shake their hands it would appear that they too have racial issues. I have been in West Virginia and parts of other states that still cling to racial sterotypes of 80 to 100 years ago. Racial issues are still not out in the open and not discussed. There is still a lot of racial discrimination directed at the Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Orientals. It is now just not so obvious.

    October 16, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. Independent in WI

    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 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. FreeNLovIt

    This country was founded by 3 things: God, Guts and Guns.

    God does not discriminate unless you are a non-repentant sinner, then, He cant help you out.

    October 16, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown

    Hey, I'm a middle aged white guy and it's true. A lot of white people won't vote for Obama because he's black.

    October 16, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Annie, Atlanta

    I think we should tape up the mouths of all politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle until after election day.

    October 16, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  7. Banker Boy

    Its true...rural pennsylvania has some race in its veins...its terrible but it is true. IMO it will hav eno effect on him winning Pennsylvania...GOOBAMA

    October 16, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    Western and Central Pennsylvania are areas thare home for far too many individuals who have no reservations about putting their racial hatreds on display. Most take pride in it, wear it like a badge of honor.

    October 16, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Sammy

    There are only a couple more weeks to go. I would humbly suggest all Obama surrogates out there shut their mouths.

    October 16, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Dadedi

    Why are we obsessed with black and white? We should not. Black people are black because their skin has evolved to protect them from the sun's rays. White people are white because they are adapted to living in areas where the sun is not such a problem. The sun only comes three months in a year. Should these adaptations be important in the way we make our decisions?

    October 16, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. Spencer/Commonwealth of Virginia

    Apology accepted. But I think Murtha knows his state better than any outsider does and he was speaking on what he know is true. Some facts are hard to swallow.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08

    October 16, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Tony

    Why should he apologize? The nation's liberals are overtly bigoted. I'm sure they'd welcome more race-baiting since they can't win an election on substance.

    October 16, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Shelli, WV

    i live in wv and YES this state is very prejudice... why lie..it's obvious..rural western pa..same thing there.. no surprise.... it won't change anytime soon...i voted today and really am amazed at how many ppl here are actually voting for Obama now...WAY 2 GO!!!!!

    October 16, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. I vote for our future! PDX

    Fact is the McCain/Palin rallies have drummed up some sad examples of pure ignorance in this country. Something should have been said to remind those attending these rallies that this behavior is unacceptable, period. If you can't guide a room full of thousands of people, how can you guide a country full of millions of people? How will they ever handle Capitol Hill, huh?

    October 16, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. HF from PA

    having been born and raised but since moved away from the "Alabama" portionof PA, Mertha is sadly correct...he owes no apology

    October 16, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Barb

    I'm racist against senile old men who have nothing important to say, and spread more hatred!

    October 16, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Still for Hill, but voting McCain

    People screaming racism is getting really old.

    When Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry (all democrats) lost their presidential bids, no one was screaming racism.

    Face it, people vote their hearts and who they think will be the best President. I'm a democrat who voted for Gore and then Kerry. I hate Bush!

    However, McCain is no Bush. I would have voted for Hillary (a conservative Democrat), but I can't pull the lever for a full blown radical socialist like Obama.

    God save the country if the three stooges are in charge: Obama, Reid, and Pelosi.

    McCain 08

    October 16, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. Dadedi

    Murtha 'as 'it the 'ammer on the 'ead. It is absolutely spot on!

    October 16, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. Ryan

    I've spent about 20 of the last 28 years living in Western PA. I don't understand what he's apologizing for. He was right the first time.

    October 16, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Juanito, Seattle

    I'm brown, make a six-figure income, and will vote for McCain. I won't vote for Obama because he black, but because he is a communist. He won't call himself that of course, but his proposed policies of "sharing the wealth" are at the root of communism.

    October 16, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Phil in KC

    If you're unwilling to vote for someone simply because he's black, I think that does make you a racist. Maybe not a robe-wearing, cross-burning racist, but a racist nonetheless. So, if that's the case, maybe Murtha knew what he was talking about. The way for them to prove him wrong is to vote Obama.

    October 16, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. ANGIE

    But Its True!

    October 16, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Vicki

    Race is only a factor in this election on the DEMOCRAT side! Not one republican has brought up race, only Obama himself & the democrats have brought it up.

    p.s. Hey Democrats... Murtha was calling YOU racists since he knows Republicans won't vote for a liberal

    October 16, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Thomas P.

    Did anyone notice that John McSame wasn't wearing a flag pin last night at the debate? Uh huh, so much for patriotisim! In the past Senator Obama was critisized for not wearing a flag pin, well every time I see him publicly he's wearing one. So can someone answer intelligently about why McCain wasn't wearing one last night, and why hasn't he been critisized on that issue?

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

    Thanks for apologiing Murtha but don't forget the fat lady has not sing yet. The only way we will be glad the fat lady has sung will be on November 4th polls for Obama. Racist remarks do not help the campaign only give McCain something to ear off of in this campaign speeches.

    To tell you how stupid McCain is today his campaign speech was higher taxes by Obama. Now if you wasn't deaf you heard Obama tax plan but did you hear anything from John McCain I didn't. Now that goes to show us that McCain is still out there misrepresenting his campaign and making a fool of himself.

    McCain you are making a fool of yourself and not Obama. Yes you are another product of George Bushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    October 16, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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