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. Republican who supports President Obama

    Nice to see such enthusiasm from a fellow Republican. I would do the same if I had the chance.

    September 10, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  2. Republican who supports President Obama

    I wish all of America would be as welcoming to this President regardless of party – hint hint conservatives and tea party supporters.

    September 10, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  3. Ron

    Newt's comments were laughable. Any intelligent human being can see what's happening here. Stretch the truth about the facts of history- about what happened during the Clinton and Bush Administrations. The Republican's unwillingness to work with President Clinton and shutdown the government cost them dearly. Newt's strategy then is the Boehner strategy today. Say "NO!" to everything and then blame the President for inaction. To twist Clinton's words to demean President Obama is the consistent strategy they have used against the American people...From weapons of mass destruction to orange, yellow red terrorism alerts to Obama causing GM plant closings and the "Are we better off?" slogan, knowing that the country was on the brink when President took office...Lies, Lies and More Lies...They should be known as the The Party of Outright Liars.

    September 10, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  4. GrandLeftConspiracy

    Please, this was completely scripted. Does any thinking person think that the Secret Service would not have tackled this guy unless this was pre-approved.

    September 10, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  5. ST

    First it was Michelle, now it is the President. Who is next Christ Christie? And who is ready to give it a try? It goes to show that it is always appreciative to have an acceptable weight!

    September 10, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  6. aliersenerol

    Of ocurse.. and the security just watched... Staged, staged, staged... As much as I love Obama, no way I believe this "just happened".

    September 10, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  7. HenryB

    Oh, boy, the right wingers are just chomping at the bits to comment on this. Would like to see the Mittster do this.

    September 10, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  8. Yo

    With all the nonsense that we are force-fed about the election, it's fun to read a story like this... this is probably the funniest line of all the political coverage in weeks "Van Duzer said he was informed that "I was all right as long as I didn't take him away." 🙂

    September 10, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  9. Marty, FL

    Love it. President Obama is humble and a man of the people.

    September 10, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. WatchDawg

    From the sounds of it...not only do the TGOP'rs have to worry about the Independents...they also have to worry about losing registered Republicans voting for President Obama...

    Well done Mitts...way to alienate an entire voting block!!

    September 10, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  11. Linda

    what a great story. In all the messiness of politics It's so nice to hear a happy light hearted story.
    This makes love this President so much more. He's genuine and it shows unlike the other guy who comes across fake as a three dollar bill.

    September 10, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  12. vic , nashville ,tn

    Simple People love Obama , still we believe in hope and change

    September 10, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  13. Tell

    The repugs know that they are never going to win this elections. All i hope now is that the House of Representatives also gets cleaned up from these greedy power mongers. Americans need to understand that a vote for republicans means tyranny vs a vote for Democrats means freedom of choice and liberty. Obama for 2012!

    September 10, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  14. anon

    The bear hugger SAID he was going to vote for Obama because that is what they TOLD him to say.

    September 10, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  15. Fair s Fair


    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.
    It's called a staged photo op.

    September 10, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  16. Geoscba

    This tickles me a little bit. This big man gets so excited that he just bear hugs the crap out of the President. And guys, if you read through the article, it says he did talk to the Secret Service before he did this. It doesn't appear however that the President had clue. It's nice to see some pleasantness in the campaign for a little while before it gets ugly in the final stretch. I wish political stories were always this pleasant.

    September 10, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    Of ocurse.. and the security just watched... Staged, staged, staged... As much as I love Obama, no way I believe this "just happened".
    Here's your response straight from the article:
    "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."

    Sounds to me like Mr. Van Duzer ranit by the Secret Service first to make sure, probably, that he wasn't tackled to the ground by said Secret Service. LOL!
    What a warm demonstration of love towards the President. Way cool!

    September 10, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. Justsayin'

    Well, it shows just how "human" our president is when he's out among the populus. Somehow, I doubt if this was entirely impromptu since his security folks would have had a canary! Regardless, it reinforces Obama's "one of the guys" perception.

    September 10, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  19. Standup

    CNN no matter how much you might try to paint him as a nice man. WE DONT THINK $6,000,000,000,000.00 IN DEBT IS NICE. If you're an American who remembers Reagan, don't just vote for Romney. Fight for him, this election is for freedom from debt and a last chance to restore America as we had it.

    September 10, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  20. blkpwr817

    This just goes to show how President Obama & the First Family relate to Americans all over the country. Not one specific color or race. It seemed like the entire GOP convention was set up to convince us that Romney was likable & relatable. To bad he hasn't made that connection with me yet...Obama 2012!

    September 10, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  21. Wake up People!

    I think it's wonderful that people love our President. I know if I ever had a chance to meet him I would want to give him a hug and a God bless you.

    But what I really want to know is when the MSM will finally give President Obama the respect he has earned, is due and that has been afforded to every other president in history? When will you begin referring to him as Mr. President or President Obama? How disrespectful it is to refer to him as Barack or even Obama. I never in 8 years heard Bush being referred to as George or even Bush.

    OBAMA 2012!

    September 10, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  22. mikle

    Because of this, he is more presidential ? God, help as all. we so naive and stupid.

    September 10, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. ClarasBeau

    I think the shop owner's lack of self-control was pretty darn goofy, and that the President's reaction was pretty darn slick.

    September 10, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  24. Anonymous

    One word: socialization. Obama Is socially equipped to do this kind of thing. The romney's don't know how to ninteract with 'regular' people.

    September 10, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  25. Guest

    Down to earth guy who cares about the people? Haha, do any of you even know what the price of arugula is these days? That's what real Americans care about.

    September 10, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
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