September 9th, 2012
05:18 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama gets a bear hug

Fort Pierce, Florida (CNN) – President Barack Obama got a warm embrace on Sunday - one that lifted him about a foot off the ground.

While campaigning in Fort Pierce, Florida, the president stopped into Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Restaurant, where about 10 customers were gathered inside, and greeted the shop's owner, Scott Van Duzer.

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"Scott, what's going on man," the president said as he walked in. "Scott, let me tell you, you are like the biggest pizza shop owner I've ever seen."

Van Duzer, 46, stands 6-foot-3, weighs 260 pounds and says he can bench press 350 pounds, according to a pool reporter who was at the restaurant.

"Everybody look at these guns," Obama said, pointing to Van Duzer's chest. "If I eat your pizza will I look like that?"

Laughing, Van Duzer hugged the president, arched his back and hoisted him off his feet.

"Look at that!" Obama said after he was back on the ground. "Man are you a powerlifter or what?"

Talking to reporters afterward, Van Duzer said he didn't know the president was coming to his restaurant until about 40 minutes beforehand. The Florida business owner rushed from the driving range to get there in time.

Describing himself as "a big political person," Van Duzer said he was "just overcome with excitement" and lifted the president. Van Duzer said he was a registered Republican who voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to cast his ballot again for the president in November.

Asked if he was concerned about a Secret Service reaction to the hug, Van Duzer said he was informed that "I was all right as long as I didn't take him away."

The president said he wanted to stop by the shop and express appreciation to Van Duzer for leading community efforts that encourage blood donation.

"I still wonder how he got these biceps, but what we know is that the guy's just got a big heart along with big pecs," Obama said. "So we're very proud of him and we just want to say thank you for all the great work."

The president wasn't the only Obama to receive a big boost recently. A female Olympic wrestler picked up his wife, Michelle, while the first lady was in London to watch the opening ceremony and lead the presidential delegation.

"Even before she made the rounds I thought I can't just hug her like everybody else," the wrestler, Elena Pirozhkova, said. "I think she was nervous. I went slow. I just picked her up. I wanted to ask her permission. There was security all around. And she gave it. I will only meet her once. I wanted to do something different."

- CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Florida • President Obama
soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Gary in Tampa

    lol- how cool is that guy? I'm driving down and getting some of his pizza!

    September 9, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. 200 TON HAMMER

    Its all good this republican buisness owner of the pizza shop,knows that President Obama is for the middle class

    September 9, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. myviewis

    The article fails to mention that Scott Van Duzer is the founder of The Van Duzer Foundation and is well known, so this bear hug is not accidental but I am sure well planned, more marketing for the The Van Duzer Foundation whose members of the board are well known for their marketing gimmicks.

    September 9, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. imvotingforobama

    I can't give this great man a hug, but I will give him my VOTE in NOV, Again!

    September 9, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  5. winky

    thanks Scott being an Obama supporter and uplifter!

    September 9, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    The very portrait of America giving our President a hug. This is incredible! Love it!

    September 9, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  7. Sueb

    Love this picture!!! What other country in the world could someone feel comfortable enough to hug the president!!!

    September 9, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  8. Cam Spurgeon

    Nice story'. I spend more time on computer now so I don't have to see all the ads. I have already decided to vote for Obama so don't need cable TV talking heads or expensive ads to influence me.Everybody should go vote early to make these ads and programs meaningless. News media should spend more time on helping people to get and use their voting rights.

    September 9, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. R H

    Smartest thing I've heard a former Republican say, "Im going to vote for the POTUS again" you deserve a big hug now.

    September 9, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  10. Joan

    Totally inappropriate !! The guy meant well !!!

    September 9, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  11. Just a thought

    That's fantastic to know there are still some sane, not racist, none trailer trash, none tea-a-tard, intelligent republicans left. There is still hope for this country.

    September 9, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  12. Dav

    How much did obama pay for that made up photo?

    September 9, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    Can you imagine a regular guy wanting to pick up the twit? He would probably barf in the man's face. How dare the little people get that close to him.
    That is a great picture though!! 🙂 🙂

    September 9, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. Lazlo

    Its defenitelt the likability factor!

    September 9, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. belinda

    People like Scott, are so important to their Communities. Blood donation is important to everyone, regardless of Party Lines. Our President, can't help but come across as the genuinely sincere person, that he is. Romney , I'm sorry but that's one thing you can't buy.

    September 9, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. camty

    No one would ever be that happy to see Mitt Romney.....Except for CEO's. The fact that the guy is a republican who voted for Obama back in 08 and will vote for him again is just too funny. Obama is truly the people's president!

    September 9, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  17. Lazlo

    I'm jealous...I want to "Bear Hug" him too...
    I love to wake up every day happy that Obama is my President....I like loyalty.

    September 9, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. R H

    A former Republican voted once for O and he is going to vote for him again. A small business man in Florida. Smart man.

    September 9, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. Regina1963

    Wow! Totally unexpected! Obama was welcomed by this gentleman. What a photo op that was.

    September 9, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. Robert

    Obama so loved the poor that he created millions more!

    September 9, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. teacheng

    Can you imagine someone doing that with Romney? – he would be so awkward. Besides the fact I can't imagine anyone loving him that much, even his supporters. He can't really interact with us humans properly...

    September 9, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. mjw

    I think that lift says it all. People are happy with the job the president is doing despite the disrespect and obstruction from the republicans. They tempted faith and they will lose. Cooler heads always prevail when you humble yourself and trust God. People are not stupid they do see what is going on since the president took office. On top of that Mitt Romney just had a sudden change of heart that he liked some parts of Obamacare. I really do not know how much more flip-flop he can do and still believe people will respect him. Etch-a-sketch will not erase what people already know. this is really beyond anything I have seen in politics. This is not new, he did the same in the senatorial race with Senator Kennedy. He just cannot be trusted core.

    September 9, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  23. chupacabra

    If I'm ever in Fort Pierce Florida I will eat at Big Apple Pizzaand Pasta....Obama 2012

    September 9, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. moonghaelela

    No doubt the election will turn on this event.

    September 9, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Dee

    Just another example of how comfortable people tend to feel around President Obama. Contrary to popular beliefs...and the media...many people find that very important in a leader!

    September 9, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
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