A longtime Raleigh business owner is helping Republicans fan the controversy surrounding a widely-circulated comment that was plucked from a campaign speech by President Barack Obama in downtown Roanoke, Va. on July 13.
In his comments, Obama said: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."
Some Republicans have focused on the words in bold.
Steve Webb, owner of Snoopy’s hot dog grill, a Raleigh fixture since 1978, reacted to the sound bite he heard by changing his sign: “Mr. Obama – I did create this business."
After a picture of the sign spread on Twitter, the Republican National Committee recruited Larry Cerilli – Webb’s business partner and co-owner of the restaurant – to elaborate on the sign’s message to reporters during a conference call on Monday.
Cerilli said Webb started the business with nothing more than an old gas station and $6,000. It has expanded to five locations around Raleigh, a testament Cerilli said to taking a chance and working hard to provide a service the community wants.
“I try not to get into politics,” Cerilli said. “But when I heard that … I just said, ‘This has got to stop.’ ”
In the video seen here, Obama appears to be speaking off the cuff about the importance of teachers, well-maintained infrastructure and government research. Obama for America has brushed off the quote as being distorted for political gain.
Cerilli conceded that his business has benefited from the help of others, like police officers stopping by during late nights, a well-built highway system and a steady flow of customers and loyal employees to fill the restaurants.
He said, however, that he remains convinced the quote is fitting to use on its own because Obama spoke the words at all. Cerilli said everyone benefits from the services provided, but a positive outcome is the product of work.
Those services "are there for everyone to use," Cerilli said. "It also takes that person giving his blood, sweat and tears to go take a chance."
Tim Miller of the RNC said at the end of the call that context made the quote worse.
"The argument was that government was going to be the answer," Miller said. "That's exactly the opposite of what we need."