Wolf Blitzer Tosses Softballs to Obama-Hugging Pizza Man

CNN deemed it newsworthy enough to interview an Obama-supporting restaurant owner who gave the President a bear hug on the campaign trail. The Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer tossed softballs to guest Scott Van Duzer, a registered Republican, on Monday afternoon.

"It's the campaign stop everyone's talking about. The President of the United States got a lift, literally, from a super-enthusiastic supporter," Blitzer introduced the segment. "Congratulations. I love the bear hug," he told Van Duzer.

"How emotional was it that the President of the United States was actually in your pizza place over there?" Blitzer teed up the Obama supporter, who gushed about the "amazing experience."

"We were watching the convention last week. And now here he is," Van Duzer raved. "I've never felt like I've been caught up in a moment. But that was definitely a time where I felt like I was truly caught up in the moment and it was just awe-inspiring."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 10 on The Situation Room at 4:45 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

WOLF BLITZER: It's the campaign stop everyone's talking about. The President of the United States got a lift, literally, from a super-enthusiastic supporter. Watch what happened over the weekend when President Obama met Scott Van Duzer.  He’s the owner of the Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Restaurant in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Watch this.  

(...)

BLITZER: Never seen anything like that before. Scott Van Duzer is joining us now from Ft. Pierce in Florida. He's the owner of the Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Restaurant. Scott, thanks very much for coming in. What made you hug the President and then lift him up like that in that bear hug?

SCOTT VAN DUZER: (Laughing) Hi, Wolf. Thanks for having me. I guess I got caught up in the moment. I had a brief moment when I knew he was coming. He opened up the door and he was like, where's Scott at?  And as soon as I saw him, he came right at me, shook my hand. And I was just so excited, I just gave him a big hug and picked him up. It was crazy.

BLITZER: Did you have permission from the Secret Service to do that?  Because I used to be a White House correspondent. Those guys are pretty sensitive when it comes to picking up the President of the United States.

VAN DUZER: Actually a lot of people think we did. It was – I'm telling you Wolf, just a spur of the moment. We didn't plan it. We didn't have no communication with the Secret Service about it or anything like that. It was just a genuine moment that I was taken back by. And it was an incredible experience.

BLITZER: Well what would have happened if you would have lifted him up and you would have dropped him or you would have fallen over? That could have been a big issue.

VAN DUZER: Yeah, I think that would have been a tremendous issue, right? I felt comfortable being able to pick him up. And like I said, you know, the way he came in, and just his enthusiasm and he was genuinely excited to be here. Didn't feel like it was just another stop on his bus tour. And like I said, when he came in, it seemed like I knew him for years. And his enthusiasm was contagious.  And like I said, I just picked him up and the rest is history.

BLITZER: How emotional was it that the President of the United States was actually in your pizza place over there?

VAN DUZER: Like I said, we had no idea he was coming. And what an honor. And I keep saying it all day. Whether you're Republican or Democrat, he's our President, he's the United States President. And like I said, it was just a tremendous honor.  And it's really bizarre. We were watching the convention last week. And now here he is. It was just, like I said, an amazing experience.  And I think that's why – I've never felt like I've been caught up in a moment. But that was definitely a time where I felt like I was truly caught up in the moment and it was just awe-inspiring.

BLITZER: How much advance notice did you get that the President would be coming over to your restaurant?

VAN DUZER: He had come to my store, I wasn't here. I was out hitting some golf balls. And my manager called me. I had roughly about 18 minutes notice before the Secret Service started locking down the street and the block.  And I threw the clubs in the bag and I got here as quick as I could.

(...)

BLITZER: I'm told, correct me if I'm wrong, Scott, you're a registered Republican but you voted for the President four years ago. And I assume you're planning on voting for him again this time.

VAN DUZER: I am. I – that's the question of the hour besides the bear hug. I liked his enthusiasm four years ago. I liked his message of trying to obviously get the youth involved, to get out and vote.  And like I said, the biggest thing is his enthusiasm and wanting to make change in the country.  And obviously now we have problems here in our country. There's trouble worldwide. But at that time, I really felt like he was the right guy at the right time. And seeing him and the enthusiasm when he came in my store, I felt that. The reason why I voted for him. I felt that when he came in here.  Cuz, like I said, this could have been just another stop on his bus tour, hey how you doing, in and out. But it felt like he wanted to come here, he wanted to make a difference in our daily life here and he did. The people that were in the store, and he made a difference to me.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Republicans say the President's bad for small business. You've got a small business. Are you better off today than you were four years ago? How's your small business doing?

VAN DUZER: Well you know what it is, Wolf, I feel I control my destiny, I control my business. I work hard. I don't look for the government to come in and help me. If I take care of my business and if small businesses look and take care of themselves instead of leaning on help or support, I think we'd be a lot better off anyway. I am better off than I was four years ago, it’s because I work hard, I take care of my family and if other people had that mentality, I think the country would be a lot better also.

BLITZER: Scott Van Duzer, thanks very much for sharing a few moments with us. Congratulations. I love the bear hug.  You know, I've never seen anyone do that to a President. You're a first.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014