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. camty

    So now the GOP is calling this a publicity stunt. The Pizza owner has been a registered republican for years but decided to vote for Obama in 2008 to get the chance for a staged photo-op in 2012. Why can't the GOP and Obama-haters just accept the fact that the America people do not have the same blind-hatred of Obama that right-wing conservatives have? No one would be that happy to see Mitt Romney!

    September 10, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Steven

    Awwwww this is soooo cute hehehehehehe....I wanna give Barack a bear hug!!!

    September 10, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. Dorothy

    the 20,000 (non union) DELPHI workers who lost their pension under the Obama plan were NEVER covered by the double standard media. Bad news for Obama will be ignored by the media. Or, on the rare occassion they do "report" bad news for Obama they always provide some excuse or blame. And of course that blame is ALWAYS on the GOP or conservatives.

    September 10, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |

    MIitt is like ..too stiff to pick him up..OBAMA is just delightful!!

    September 10, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. TheDudeAbides

    In the response, the Romney campaign has said he will publicly bear-hug a stack of his money this week.

    September 10, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. David Blonsteiiin

    Could you seriously imagine Mitt Romney connecting with people like that? Nice to have a president who is a human being. OBAMA 2012!!

    September 10, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Whome

    It's called fiddling while Roma burns.

    September 10, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Joepub

    This was neat. Not an Obama fan because of some of his policies, but at least I know he is trying and it's good to see our president out there with the crowd.

    September 10, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, dear. It's looks like Dorothy has a very bad case of sour grapes this morning ...

    September 10, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  10. Republican who supports President Obama

    @Dorothy – Time to take the tin foil cap off. Businesses are in control of their own destiny. Business leaders make the decisions to cut workforrces – not the President. Congress helps shape the business environment.

    Do you blame the President for the Eurozone mess also? Do you give him credit for ANYTHING he has done right?

    September 10, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Wilson
    I can smell your pants on fire all the way here in D.C. metro area!!

    September 10, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Republican who supports President Obama

    Would GW Bush get the same type of reaction if he was on the road in 2008 and 2009? Why was he not at the Republican Convention. Just asking.....

    September 10, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. ConcernedSNCO

    Just goes to show you the president is a man of the people. Obama 2012

    September 10, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. tb63

    Scott is a bear alright. Woof!

    September 10, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |

    Apparently Mr. Van Duzer has no problem with the President's economic policies. I know republicans hate the truth, but sometimes it smacks you dead in the face.

    September 10, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. Hey Seed


    Good point! Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the elderly couple who own a shoe store in NYC close up shop and Kramer says it was a scam. Jerry says something like the couple opened their shop over years before, build up trust, etc etc., all part of a plot to steal tennis shoes 40 years later! If Van Duzer had yelled at Obama to get the heck out of his shop, he would be hailed as a hero by the GOP right now!

    I don't care for Romney, but I don't hate him like the pathological right hates Obama. If Romney came to my business, I would even shake his hand and take a pic with him and be pleasant. I wouldn't vote for him, but people CAN be civil about political differences.

    September 10, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. Grand Oil Party 2012

    This is nothing. Mitt gives his tax returns a bear hug every night.

    September 10, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. Cheryl

    Every single time the President gets a warm reaction from a member of the public, the right wing insists it was staged. What poor sports. President Obama is a charismatic man. People like him. Deal with it.

    September 10, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. too bad

    November's election comes down to this. Do you want an entertainer (Obama) in the White House or someone (Romney) with management experience who can get us out of this mess.

    September 10, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. difoderit

    I had the rare opportunity to meet President Obama – (before he was president) he was meeting at the home of (at the time) Congressman Shomshor of Iowa for a small fundraising event – my friend lived across the street from the Congressman – (and by the way they live in a modest home say I'd $140-$150K tops) had invited us over to the event (I would say roughly 200-300 peopel at the event) I have to say Senator Obama was actually a really down to earth person – and later we found out that we could have come back after all the corwds left and just sat and had a beer with him – I just could kick myself for not staying longer 🙁

    September 10, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. Badawi Elghazali

    That is why I love this guy and that is why I am proud of him as our president and finally that is why he gonna be relected.

    September 10, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. Proud Independent !

    Obama just has the likability factor ! That is something you can't buy or teach , you either have it or you don't . Romney comes off as a stiff hollow corporate robot and that turns people off at the end of the day ! The President is supposed to be someone that people generally like as a person ! Even Obama's political adversaries say that even though they don't agree with him on some of policies , they generally think he is a good man ! People just like President Obama for his caring demeanor and down to earth personality and that is exactly what you need as President , People need to feel like they can relate to you and feel like you understand them ! President Obama has that quality !

    September 10, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  23. Pander Bear

    Can you imagine anyone displaying that level of warmth to Mitt Romney? Neither can I.

    September 10, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Diana

    I think it's great politicians show their human side to people. Though Obama has always shown human warmth and compassion. Def he will my vote. Romney seems too programmed like a cold machine. A romney hug would reminds me of the guy that attempted to mimick the hug Tom Cruise's character gave to Cuba Gooding jr in Jerry McGuire.

    September 10, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. Expat American

    too bad
    Do you want an entertainer (Obama) in the White House or someone (Romney) with management experience who can get us out of this mess.
    If Romney wins, you should be thankful that you are a millionaire several times over. Most people aren’t. And this includes most of the actually people voting for Romney. They're all in for a nasty (hypothetical) surprise.

    September 10, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9