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. Hey Seed

    More good points about likability. I did not care for President Bush's politics, but I liked him as a man. He had that goofy kind of next door neighbor quality and he used it to his political advantage. Same with Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton. The right wingers hate Obama so much, they don't even see that.

    Romney just does not have that connection with people, if he did, he may well be up big in the polls.

    September 10, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. batjones

    Actually I could see Mr. Van Duzer giving Mitt Romney a bear hug if he visited. Mr. Van Duzer seemed to be like any American who is honored to be in the presence of any President, and wanted to express his appreciation for being recognized for good deeds in his community. Whether Mr. Romney would have reached out to Mr. Van Duzer is a completely different matter.

    September 10, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. Hap

    Can't see Mitt doing anything like this, he's a stiff outside his comfort zone. I also can't see him as preident, he's been running for 10 years, isn't even truly embraced by his party, and he's a reed in the wind on his positions I trust this President to carefully evaluate issues and make his own decision, especially in a second term, Mitt will do what he's told. Can't wait for the debates Mitt will be exposd for the phoney draft dodger that he is. He's also wimpy, we can't have a wimpy president.

    September 10, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. Jenny Yasi

    Golly I love our President!

    September 10, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Woman In California

    No one wants to hug the Romney's, because they smell of corrupt lies and fake concern for the American people.

    Nice story.

    September 10, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. Mikey

    All of us who care about "the People", not just the few, need to do everything we can to "lift" the President over the next two months. Volunteeer. Talk. Support. And most important, VOTE!!!

    September 10, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    I would advise against squeezing Mittens in this manner: he's already spewing enough feces as it is.

    September 10, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. Denny

    It is so disrespectful, so demeaning of the Presidency. Mitt Romney would not allow himself to be picked up and flailed around like a toy, not because he is stiff or unlikeable but because he knows how to behave in public.

    September 10, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. johnny

    How Cute. Had to be staged. Secret Service had to be part it ahead of time.

    September 10, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    I can honestly say that this was ABSOLUTELY NOT a publicity stunt. I personally know Scotty V and he did not know about this ahead of time.

    September 10, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. truth hurts

    absolutely staged.... another obama scam. nobody gets this close to the president. if it wasn't staged then somebody should be loosing their job. maybe the secret service was tied up at the cat house around the corner?

    September 10, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. Marry

    To watch this made my day!!! The president is a very special person and the enthusiasm of Mr. Van Duzer is wonderful! After listening to the TP and GOP and all their insults, it is so nice to show the President that many more people REALLY appreciate his hard work for America and her people. But, I also want to thank Mr. Van Duzer that he is such a wonderful member of his community. Shows you, there are terrific people to be found everywhere – even among the Republican voters… Now there is hope for the country!!!!

    September 10, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. alicia

    The peoples champ!

    September 10, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. sayquitter

    For a moment I thought he got a hug from Gov. Christie.

    September 10, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Say what you want, but it was NOT a staged event. Everyone in attendance was in shock when Scott lifted the President up off the ground. If you know Scott, this is something very characteristic of him and certainly NOT planned.

    September 10, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. lolo

    @ Sniffitt, I love it!!!!!!!!!! I am laughing so hard I have tears in my eyes. LOL!!!!!!!

    September 10, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. Woman In California

    Thanks Lynda/Minnesota for sharing that with us. This gentleman obviously is a REAL American regardless of his politics. I hope, I can see it when I get home tonight.

    September 10, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Tree

    It does not matter what you goper say. You got to like the President plus he is doing great things, stage or not this man is for real.

    September 10, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. lil

    Two great guys. smile.

    September 10, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. TY

    Obama is just cool. I like him and will vote for him. He is the one ! He is for the people and be around with.

    September 10, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  21. sf

    this was very nice to see how excited a regular citizen reacts to our Prez! romney is fonie and hateful like the rest on the right..only time i'd pick up a republican is to throw them out of the room!

    September 10, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  22. Rousseau Luzincourt

    This is one way Obama shows he can connect with the everage Americans.

    September 10, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. Moderate Sean

    Jessica wrote:

    "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."


    Well, Jessica, regardless of you "being in and around the military" doesn't make you an expert on how law enforcement handles actions compared to the military. It is very different – For example, the military are taught when clearing a room to take out the room should "bad guys" be present, whereas, police are generally taught differently, particularly should there be "innocents" present. We cut the pie before entering a room and only take out the threat! There are liability issues for law enforcement to consider, something the military may not always have as it's main priority. War is different from what can be legally done here at home. Collatoral damage is not something the police can easily explain away!! Had you read the article in its entirity, you would of seen that the Bar Owner asked the Secret Service if it would be ok to hug the President, so they knew it was coming. I know reading can be a challenge at times, but before you stick your foot in your mouth, try it....

    Thanks to this gentlemen for his obvious excitement and all the work he does for his community!!

    September 10, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. FLIndependent

    A Republican white male small business owner that loves our President – can't get any better than that!!

    September 10, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Really?

    LOL @ Sniffit!!

    September 10, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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