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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

"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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Larry L

    I don't think CNN should use "Barack" when refering to the President of the United States
    I completely agree Larry L.
    Fortunately millions of us continue to give the President his due respect even when the media takes leave of its' sense of decorum.

    September 10, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Patriot

    And a hug from all of us who are way better off...
    The number of job openings for skilled factory workers has increased 38% since 2005, according to numbers from the Conference Board that measure labor demand across industries.
    More strikingly, the sharpest increase in postings for skilled workers - 152% - has occurred in the last three or so years under President Obama’s leadership.

    September 10, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Senior Citizen

    To the person on here who said that Scott had been to the White House maybe you should check your facts before posting. He received a commendation from the Surgeon General for his work regarding blood donations and his Foundation. Doesn't mean he had been to the WH!!

    Also those of you saying where were the Secret Service if you read the article it said they had told Scott it was ok as long as he didn't carry him away. Scott said he was at the driving range when he was informed the President was going to stop and had 40 minutes to get there. The President wanted to thank him for his work in blood donations.

    All you have to do is read people instead of jumping to conclusions.

    September 10, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |

    Awww. Bromance.

    September 10, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    I love pres. Obama. I told this long time ago. He is American Middle Class guy.

    September 10, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  6. Ah...I See.

    To those thinking this was staged: The President meets with people every day. Sometimes whole lines or buildings-worth of people at a time and I'm sure many of them greet him in many different ways along with varied levels of flabbergastedness. That's Star Power folks; like if some famous actor or musician you really liked just waltzed into your store. To think that ONE guy gave him a slightly different hug than all the other girls and guys that have given them to him is a cause for Secret Service tackling him to the ground, tasing left and right, and flying in evac helicopters for Obama is plain ridiculous. Dont hate cuz your candidate can hardly get a firm handshake from his supporters.

    September 10, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  7. Jessica

    Love how everyone on here thinks that was sooooo wonderful. Guess what! That would NEVER have happened! The Secret Service would have had this guy on the floor with weapons drawn! After being in and around the military for the last 23 years I can tell you that with certainty! This was completely staged. If this man had hurt the President in any way everyone would be in an uproar about "where was the Secret Service, how was he allowed to get that close, etc. etc."

    September 10, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. Florida Dem

    Can you imagine Mittens joking, hugging, and ultimately being lifted off the ground by this guy? Yeah, me neither.

    September 10, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. enuff

    If you see the video of the hug, it shows the gentleman leaning forward and asking the President a question and Mr. Obama nodding his head "yes". It appeaars that he asked the President if it was ok before he went to hug him. After that, the rest is history.

    September 10, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  10. GI Joe

    Ryan/Romney will tell us their plan as soon as Norquist lets them know. Maybe.

    Bless that big guy pizza owner for his humanitarian work for blood donations !!!!!!!

    September 10, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. GI Joe

    People selling books and promoting "movies" during ANY election year should NOT be TRUSTED. It's $$$$$$

    September 10, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  12. Anonymous

    "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."

    Now that made me laugh !!

    September 10, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  13. Paulie

    Where is the Secret Service??? Obviously scripted. Nice little show though. Anything to distract people from the REAL issues such as chronic high unemployment and rising gas prices. Another example of the media running a story they know is BS, just to promote their choice.

    September 10, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  14. jag

    Genuine enthusiasm. The guy knew intuitively that Obama wouldn't mind because he is relatable and there is something to be said about that. When a person to person connection happens there is no denying sincerity.

    September 10, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Thank you CNN!
    You and my new favorite pizza guy made my day, and lightened my heart.

    September 10, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  16. Malory Archer


    Down to earth guy who cares about the people? Haha, do any of you even know what the price of arugula is these days?


    Publix has Greenwise brand (organic) on sale for two plastic tubs for $5 this week. It's usually $3.49 a tub.

    September 10, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. Malory Archer

    Ah...I See.

    To those thinking this was staged: The President meets with people every day. Sometimes whole lines or buildings-worth of people at a time...


    Like when he spoke at St. Pete College in Seminole on Saturday. Tickets were available at three locations, and the lines were a quarter-mile long five hours before they were to be handed out.

    September 10, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Bolaji09

    "I was all right as long as I didn't take him away." Funny. But seriously, enough of this madness. First it was the FLOTUS being heaved off the floor, now the PRESIDENT?!!! SS needs to manage the risks a lot better. Minimal physical contact is not necessarily aloofness.

    September 10, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  19. Peace

    I am very, very proud of the Security Service. They are acting according to the situation they are in. This goes to show that being tough doesn't mean you can't be loose when the situation allows. I praise you all BUT don't forget yourself either!

    September 10, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  20. Rosslaw

    I'm sure Mittens would have enjoyed this close contact with a member of the great unwashed as well. Of course, not having a backbone might have made it a little harder to hold on to Mittens.

    September 10, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  21. George Cook

    SHOWTIME....Theatrics....Hollywood...WON'T get you a "RETURN TICKET" to the WH Mr O...let's talk Business and the State of the Economy and JOBS.....also..If you like PIZZA so much...Maybe ( one timer/ one termer ) should return to Chicago and start up a PIZZA PARLOR/ CHAIN............and "CREATE JOBS...for ONCE" .....for the CHICAGO area! It- pizza business – certainly creates a lot more jobs than......COMMUNITY ORGANIZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 10, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. Wilson

    I see from the comments here that these set up/staged events continue to impress the intellectually challenged.

    September 10, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    I just watched the video. I loved the last bit where our President went to the table to shake hands with the two elderly folks, and the gentleman actually got half way out of this chair to show respect. Reminds me of my grandparents generation. Don't know who that man will vote for, but he made me smile.

    September 10, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  24. Canuck Observer

    What is wrong with you right wingers, the article,.. step out of your Fox news induced coma,.. get some oxygen, and give your brain cells a chance to regenerate ..this guy Van Duzer, checked with security first,..and he's a humanitarian, Obama was there to thank him for his Blood donation work.

    September 10, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  25. Wake up People!

    Same thing here Lynda. It warmed my heart to see the older gentlemen show President Obama respect. He receives it so rarely these days....

    September 10, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9