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. Andrea Sharp

    That's pretty damn cool !!!

    September 9, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  2. Justin

    Proves how much a big heart the President has...he really does care for this country. I really hope he gets re-elected.

    September 9, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. ronjayaz

    What is this with white people lifting our First Lady, recall the Olympics and now the Pizza bear lifting our President. Where's the respect? Actually, the O'Bamas (Irish heritage spelling) are so cuddly that people want to grab 'em? That may be good for the election–touchable people. Certainly no one's going to attempt to lift the Rmoneys (spelling deliberate "our money"). Who can recall a similar incident in our history?!

    September 9, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  4. Vincent

    So did Mr. Van Duzer give any reasons as to why he voted for President Obama in 2008 and wanted to vote for him again this year, despite being a registered republican?

    September 9, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  5. Dan B

    Okay...where are the jobs

    September 9, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  6. JSL

    This has got to stop. The next person might not be so "jolly". Where the heck is the secret service? Somebody tell them it's Last Call.

    September 9, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  7. nintex

    This is definitely one cool president. He so relates to us ordinary people. Can you see someone lifting Romney off his feet and Romney being that cool about it?

    Some conservative columnist the other day was griping about how "cool" President Obama thought he was – well he IS cool! I think they're just jealous because their guy is so stiff and unnatural around ordinary people.

    September 9, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  8. Timus

    Republicans haaaaate stories like this that show the President interacting with everyday people instead of looking awkward talking about "cheesy grits" and dancing horses!!!

    September 9, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Wont Get Fooled Again BHO!

    Lets just say one word......STAGED. So secret service got the que, were gonna do this college antic in front of the cameras for the news and be sure to show some teeth. With as many death threats as this president has had, theres no way you can get near Barry unless pre-approved by the current Libel Supreme Court. He gets the Secret Service Bonus Plan x10.. This is represenitive to the public at large, with emphasis on the caucasian man, that its ok, Imma cool guy, you can vote for me again tru dat, tru dat my .... Wow this guy really tries to insult the intelligence of the average American. I wish I could of hugged him. When hes around white people, he acts white and when hes around black people he acts black. Everybody else hes whatever you want him to be, a real poltical whore Can see right through this guy man, Fake it till you make it Barack....See you Nov 6th at the polls. I got your hug right here buddy.

    September 9, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  10. mane

    President Obama is the real deal. He keeps it real. Now you know who you can go out and share a pizza with.

    September 9, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  11. kim000

    This was so fun to watch.President Obama truly is a president of the people.So approachable,unlike another few stuffed shirts that come to mind.
    And the pizza shop owner was so excited he couldn't stop laughing...great.

    September 9, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Awesome! I personally know several Republicans who will be voting Obama/Biden again in November. Why? Because they know President Obama's policies are working and the GOP's are all PROVEN FAILURES.

    September 9, 2012 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  13. Shapiro

    I love it

    September 9, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  14. Shapiro

    That's what America all about love one another.

    September 9, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  15. cosmictwang

    How twitchy was the secret service about this guy?

    September 9, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. Allen Bedgood

    I'm surprised the Secret Service allowed that.

    September 9, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. ted

    Amazing. Maybe a real bear will hug Romney in NH.

    September 9, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  18. Gurgyl

    Just wonderful, any one who is SANE will back up THIS PRESIDENT. Yes, on OBAMA12.

    September 9, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  19. Senior Citizen

    Romney would probably have to go change clothes after something like that.................he just acts like he is so above the rest of us and Ann calls us "you people."

    I just don't trust Romney. He's hiding something big by not showing his tax records and he lies about how long he was employed by Bain.

    September 9, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  20. thetruthandnothingbutthetruth

    my president! a true American small business advocate!

    September 9, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    We Are On The Map!!!!

    September 9, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  22. Deb in MT

    I'm trying to imagine someone being so enthused about Romney and picking him up like that.

    Nope, just can't picture it.

    September 9, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. natalie slack

    Thats why we love the president he is down to earth im so glad you are president. keep adding those jobs no matter adding is not substracting. remember that

    September 9, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. enuff

    It's nice that the President can relate so well to common people. And they didn't avoid the owner or trash the place. Would Romney have allowed someone to pick him up? Would Ann?

    September 9, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  25. labman57

    Awaiting the caption applied to the photo by the right wing blogosphere:
    "Small business owner attacks Obama and attempts to squeeze the life out of him. Further proof that truly patriotic Americans despise the socialist usurper from Kenya."

    September 9, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
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