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. JohnBoy


    October 16, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Jody Monroe

    It takes one to know one, doesn't it!

    October 16, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Cricket

    So Phil – if I am white and vote for McCain that mean's I'm a racist right? Just like all blacks should vote for BHO because he is Black.

    October 16, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. jrzshor

    guns, religion and racism. PA sounds like redneck heaven

    October 16, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. greg

    u go phil in kc, death city of america,,, so i am racist , u say,, and you think u r not,, how convienent, so if i vote for obama then,, i will not be racist?

    October 16, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. G. Robinson

    Murtha is only calling it like he sees it. I'm born and raised in PA and it is a racist state. I'm glad someone has the balls to tell the truth. No need to apologize. The only ones who will be offended are those who are really racists but quote "have black friends" and don't want to admit thier disdain for Black Americans.


    THAT ONE/BIDEN 08-12

    October 16, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. michael

    Ummm... if people from western penn are saying there is some truth to this statement... then what the heck are the nay sayers talking about . We ALL know people who don't like someone because of their color. You just can't burn down someones house anymore because of their color however the embers of hate smother deep inside of people hidden from all of their minority co workers and neighboors.

    This is cathartic for america .. get it out .. like bad fever.. if Mr Obama wins. the fever will get higher but eventually it will break and maybe then we can as ONE america move on.

    October 16, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. confused miami

    I getting tiered of this lets get the fact straight here: Obama is part black and part white. Why everybody only see the black part here? what about his white roots? we was raised by his white family and yet all the republican are seeing is black? people get a clue here

    October 16, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. America think for you

    PA is a good state with civilize 21st century citizens.

    October 16, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |


    October 16, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. McCain!

    Amazing, Obama supporters are always having to apologize!

    ...and they call McCain supporters racist?

    Obama is a joke!


    October 16, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Hypocracy has no bounds

    If your vote for someone cause they are black you are a racist. If you do not vote for someone cause they are black you are a racist. Works both ways. Historical significants doesn't conceal or excuse people voting. Its a 2-way street. So this election we will have alot of racism on both sides of the isle.

    October 16, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Greg

    A lot of people are voting for Obama because of his skin color and that's just as racist.

    October 16, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. Andrew

    Obama won the nomination in part with sexist campaigning, which they have now turned on Sarah Palin, and they're trying to win the Presidency with race baiting. Way to go, Dems!

    October 16, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Rick CT

    Do I see a pattern among Obama supporters? Somehow all the recent references to race and the so-called Bradley effect seem more coordinated than coincidental.

    October 16, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. Wood

    I am an educated, African American from Pittsburgh and I applaud John Murtha for having the courage to tell the truth. Western Pennsylvania is dying a slow, painful death under the weight of its own culture. Unfortunately, a major part of this culture is racism focused against African Americans.

    Just as John Murtha said, I had to leave the area to find success, where I would be accepted based on my abilities, not on the color of my skin.

    The truth hurts...yet it is the truth regardless

    October 16, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. timmy

    true, but stupid to say

    then again 99.99999999% of blacks, actually more like 100% are voting for Obama because he is black so who are the racist people here

    October 16, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. Mothernature Houston,Tx

    CNN still on the race card ugh! Give it a Break!

    October 16, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  19. Susan

    KEEP THE WORD 'RACE" out of the election!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 16, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. Ron Ft. Myers

    Murtha is a functional moron! Just one more of the morons we have in Washington that has done NOTHING but enrich himself. Is he so senile that he didn't think about the damage his remarks would cause at this point in time? Is he agreeing with Geraldine Ferrara? He has the nerve to talk about Bush and McCain, he is of the same cloth. He spent his working life sucking off the taxpayers and it is time to put him and all his cronies out to pasture. He is a disgraceful relic of an old has been. If McCain and Biden are old men, this clown's father time.

    October 16, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  21. kk

    White America gets so defensive when someone mentions racism. Its like they want to act like it never happened. The truth is, it still exists today ,and this Congressman is from this area so apparently he has seen it and was just being honest. But some people cant handle that ugly truth. No one is saying all Republicans, or all people who don't support Obama are racists, but Democrats, especially those that supported Hillary probably are racist, because Hillary had the same ideologies as Barack. Time to face up to the truth that America has an ugly past that Whites should not be proud of. The answer is to move forward and try to overcome these prejudices, versus trying to act like they don't exist. And Stacy, Why are black people supporting Obama racist. Blacks have supported white candidates in the past. When was the last time you supported a Black candidate?

    October 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  22. William J.

    Learn to spell, Rebecca. And learn to report while you're at it. CNN's online news coverage is just the worst in the business.

    October 16, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. bill

    Has it gotten so bad that people can excuse this kind of thing. He said it then reiterated it, What kind of lame apoligy is there that would be the least bit believable.

    "Sorry guys, your racist but you know what, our guy will still win so I think your OK. Vote for me, when I go back to congress, I'll represent you're interest, except when it comes to equal rights, cause your racist. Go Steelers!" The whole thing is preposterous.

    I used to respect Murtha for his service this is just unbelievable to me that this would just be OK with anyone.

    October 16, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. L S

    Yes, racism still exists, but it also works both ways. There are still some white peolple that won't vote for a black person. But I also know both black & white people that are voting for Obama mainly because his is black.

    October 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. paulie_nj

    Phil in KC, if people not voting for someone because he's black is racist then doesn;t the reverse hold true that a black person voting for a person simply because he's black is also racist? You know that's happening simply by looking at the % of blacks who are voting for Obama, statistically it just doesn't add up and that's a fact jack!

    October 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
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