January 28th, 2009
10:40 AM ET
4 years ago

Biden apologizes to Roberts for oath of office joke

Biden couldn't pass up poking fun at Chief Justice Roberts last week.

Biden couldn't pass up poking fun at Chief Justice Roberts last week.

(CNN) — An aide to Vice President Joe Biden tells CNN he called Chief Justice John Roberts last week to apologize for a light-hearted remark he made over the flubbed Inauguration Day oath of office.

"My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts, Chief Justice Roberts," Biden said last Wednesday, as he asked for a copy of the oath he was using to swear in senior members of the White House staff.

Several staffers reacted to the comment with groans and laughter, though President Obama, standing next to Biden, did not crack a smile.

An aide to the vice president said Tuesday the two men spoke privately after that comment. “They spoke and had a good conversation,” said the aide, who declined to give further details.

Roberts' mistake came about half way through the 35-word oath, when, reciting from memory, he said the word 'faithfully,' out of order. The flub confused Obama who ultimately repeated the mistake.

Meanwhile, Biden has been selected to handle the administration’s first foreign trip. The White House said Tuesday the vice president will travel to Germany next week with retired Gen. James Jones, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

Biden will represent the United States at the Wehrkunde, the annual security policy conference held in Munich.

–CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report

Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (609 Responses)
  1. Brian O

    Obama messed the "Oath" up as much...as Roberts did...Obama jumped the gun twice, beginning his line, before Roberts had finished reciting the line...really Obama's nervousness got the best of him & Roberts...without a telepromter Obama's not very smooth ya know

    January 28, 2009 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  2. Garrett

    At least he didn't shoot someone with a shotgun...

    January 28, 2009 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  3. Ivan

    Joe Biden has a self-deprecating smile and a genuine sense of light-heartedness that's refreshing. Previous criminal was a tragic joke as second-in-command. I detested him, still do, as does most of the country.
    It's ok, Joe...teach 'em a bit about being real!

    January 28, 2009 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  4. Army of 1

    More things to come from VP.

    January 28, 2009 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  5. George

    Well like always had this been a Republican making this type of joke all the Democrats would cry foul.

    Democrats love to dish out insults but cannot take them. Biden is a nut job so you Democrats better get ready for more of this from him.

    But don't get upset when people point out what Biden is. I'm sure in the end all of you love him just like your lord the mighty Obama boy.

    January 28, 2009 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  6. Joe

    A vice president doesn't make that kind of joke. He should consider himself as a public man, not a private man anymore. The eyes of the world is on him.

    It is unfortunate for him that he is worse than a child. Do you think that making a joke and after that say that "I'm sorry" is enough?

    Please remember that you are the vice president of the USA, the leading country in the world.

    Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

    January 28, 2009 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  7. Oteast

    I'd love to see the snide and cutting remarks that Sarah Barracuda would have made. Yeah Biden can gaffe, but he's pretty harmless and well meaning.

    January 28, 2009 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  8. OMG


    Thats all I hear from the republicans these days.

    Whats the point to even work with them?

    January 28, 2009 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  9. SF Serg

    Apology accepted from President Obama. That's where the apology is coming from, not from Joe Biden. Ahhh, Biden's a good guy and a competent foreign policy expert at that. He just opens his mouth too much at times, or simply forgets to close it. Joe's just going to have shut it and grow up a little, as President Obama has made it clear that his Presidency will forgo childishness and focus on the issues. Sorry Joe Biden.

    January 28, 2009 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  10. Thierry


    It seems you don't even have a clue... Have you ever read the Oath of Office? Obama knew it so well, that's why he hesitated to repeat what the Chief Justice Roberts recited to him. I would advise you to read it and ask question when things seems to be absurd to you.

    January 28, 2009 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  11. Army of 1

    Everyone seem to enjoy the remark by the VP. Quit joking around and get busy with the issues in hand. Fun & games are over kids, get to work...

    January 28, 2009 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  12. Alicia

    My impression was that Roberts did not pause at the intuitive place where I (and Obama apparently) would have expected him to, but rushed past it. He did seem to be hurrying the oath at the outset, for whatever reason - but apart from that, he failed to rest at the first phrase, the natural resting place, and Obama began his repetition wihle Roberts was still underway, which caused the subsequent confusion. Here is what I was expecting:

    I, Barack Obama (pause for repetition)

    do solemnly swear (pause for repetition)

    that I will faithfully execute (pause for repetition)

    the office of the President of the United States (pause for repetition)

    and will, to the best of my ability, (pasue for repetition)

    preserve, protect and defend, (pause for repetition)

    the Constitution of the United States

    Instead, Roberts (if memory serves me) spoke thus:

    I, Barack Obama, do solemnly swear (pause for repetition)

    and that was the initial gaffe. I think Obama may have been subconsciously worried about just when Roberts was going to pause, if at all....

    Roberts does not have Obama's exquisitely sensitive ear for the language, and that is where the problem arose. They were not linguistically and metrically, singing off the same sheet.

    January 28, 2009 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  13. TiCNN

    I hope the discussion had once main question by Biden for Richards – how the hell did you mess that up?

    And people please, Obama to me did not come off as angry at Biden. I feel Obama simply doesnt want to give others the opportunity or any reason to character attack him. Its being smart.

    Biden should of not apologized, Richard's stumbling was and is inexcusable. Joe was sticking up for his bud, simple as that and very American.

    January 28, 2009 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  14. daniel in California!

    That JOE, so funny I'm suprised he even apologized!!!
    But come on it was funny!!!
    People chil out!!!
    Should we praise his joke, or condem it?
    Let Joe be Joe.
    We should be glad there's only 1 baffoon not 2, exmp.
    Bush and chainey!!!!
    As long pa bidden dosent shoot anyone were ok! :]
    Obama rules!!!

    January 28, 2009 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  15. Mark Lodes

    He may be the Chief Justice of the United States of America, but he certainly had that coming. Go get 'em Joe. Everyone needs a good comical moment these days. It is a dark and cold world out there. I thought watching the moment you and President Obama swore in the new Treasury Secretary was a dignified and well done swearing in, in sharp contrast to the poorly delivered Presidential Oath of Office by Chief Justice Roberts. You should hear my Republican buddies talk seriously about how Obama may not actually "be the president" because he flubbed the lines. They fail to acknowledge Robert's role in mis-delivering the Oath. Watch for traps like this. The Karl Rove machine still sputters on.

    January 28, 2009 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  16. daniel in California!

    That JOE, so funny I'm suprised he even apologized!!!
    But come on it was funny!!!
    People chil out!!!
    Should we praise his joke, or condem it?
    Let Joe be Joe.
    We should be glad there's only 1 baffoon not 2, exmp.
    Bush and chainey!!!!
    As long as bidden dosent shoot anyone were ok! :]
    Obama rules!!!

    January 28, 2009 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  17. Matthew Houston

    The point of the ceremony is the meaning of the oath, not the acting and memorization skills of the participants.

    That being said, I think Obama and Biden are right to correct the behavior of themselves and their staff. It sets a good precedent of respect and accountability. This is exactly the way the tone gets changed in Washington.

    January 28, 2009 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  18. lstrm

    Funny in private between two close friends. Not so funny when doing official business. VP Biden needs to learn when and where or the apologies won't be so trivial.

    January 28, 2009 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  19. Wally

    I understand professionalism but I think too much was made of this. The less-than obscure "re-swearing in" did more to extend the talk about the Oath flub than did VP Biden's joke.

    January 28, 2009 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  20. email4kh

    APOLOGIZE ? !!!

    January 28, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. Sue

    I'm so glad Biden is VP, on one hand, his sarcasm is going to distract the whole nation while on the other, Obama's deals are managing trillions of dollars. I love the Media afterall.

    January 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. zaphod2000

    Roberts goofed on an extremely important oath but Biden doesn't have to apologize for a little joke.
    This is almost like the last insult from the bush administration . . . hey Roberts, make sure you rush through it and mess it up . . . good boy! Now go sit on the corner.

    January 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. Jeremy

    lol it's hillarious taht anyone even thinks this is a big deal. Why should he apologise over a joke? Come on people...

    January 28, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  24. Jennifer

    It was a joke....a private talk for that? Seems like a bit much.

    January 28, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. William in Texas

    Biden does tend to talk out of line but at least he is honest unlike the previous VP.

    January 28, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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