April 30th, 2009
08:22 PM ET
5 years ago

White House apologizes for undue alarm over Biden comments

(CNN) - The White House apologized Thursday "if anybody was unduly alarmed" by Vice President Joe Biden's comments that seemed to suggest Americans should avoid air travel or confined spaces of any kind.

"What the vice president meant to say was the same thing that many members have said in the last few days," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "And that is, if you feel sick, are exhibiting flu-like symptoms….that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel."

In an appearance on NBC's Today Show earlier Thursday, Biden said he had urged his family not to go "anywhere in confined places now."

Related video: Biden flu gaffe off message

"I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, (be) suggesting they ride the subway. … So from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing, if you're in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom it's a different thing," he said.

Biden appeared on a round of morning shows Thursday, including appearances on CBS, NBC and ABC, but declined to appear on CNN.

His office quickly released a statement saying that he was referring to those people already exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Gibbs echoed that sentiment in his press briefing Thursday.

"I know what he said, and I am telling you what he meant to say," he said.


Filed under: Extra • Joe Biden
soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    There's no need to apologize. The VP was just stating the obvoius.

    April 30, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. Joe in NJ

    "What the vice president meant to say was the same thing that many members have said in the last few days,"

    If that's what he meant to say, then that's what he would have said.

    April 30, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. M

    I agree! Thanks VP Biden for the honest and open communication!

    April 30, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Gary

    Why do they use Joe Biden when they know that he is not politically savy and is prone to making gaffs....Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter and Ford kept their VPs tucked away in the corner so this kind of thing wouldn't happen.

    April 30, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. William in San Jose

    I heard him this morning on the news/radio. What he said was perfectly appropriate, I wouldn't get a on a plane today if you paid me to and I really don't think his common sense statement demands any kind of apology.

    April 30, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. Tim

    By the way, there was no undue alarm, that would imply that people misinterpreted his statement. There was due alarm, as people were reacting to something that the Vice President of the UNITED STATES said in public, with full knowledge that people would take what he said seriously.

    April 30, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Vice President Biden misspoke.

    It happens to every one at one time or another.

    Get a grip everybody! Make sensible choices that are preventative and move on.

    April 30, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. witch

    I as a mother told my grown sons to do the y same thing that VP Biden told his family. I also told them if they were sick not to go around other people. I don't want to get sick and I don't want them to get sick. People don't always have sense. I see it time and time again they are sick and they are out be it at work or shopping or where ever. They don't think about the other people they might infect.

    April 30, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. G.R.I.T.S. - Girl Raised in the South

    I'm not so sure Biden wasn't just echoing the sentiments of a lot of Americans. One company we work with just imposed a total travel ban on all their employees through May.

    April 30, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Heidi

    What is all the mess about? He stated this is for me, but I wouldn't ride in a plane or any mode of public transportation that could lead to getting the flu. That's saying that's what everyone should do.

    If Mayor Bloomberg feels safe riding on the subway that his choice, don't fault VP Biden for expressing his choice.

    April 30, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Chamorrita, MD

    I AGREE with VP Biden, I don't want my family members flying or getting themselves in confined spaces. WHAT'S NOT TO GRASP here people. NONE of us want our family members getting sick. Hello.

    Biden at least had the common sense to say he wants his family members to be SAFE and avoid certain things until this flu bug is sustained.

    Geez, everyone in the media acted like he committed murder or something. RELAX, stop blowing his comments out of proportion.

    April 30, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  12. bob in LA

    Stop apologizing! Joe is rigth- avoid confined spaces where possible. That's true at the time of any flu outbreak. This isn't alarmist, it's simple logic.
    Between the press looking ofr the GOTCHA comment and the White house trying to be politically correct, any real comon sense approach will be thrown out the window.
    Where's the outrage at schools closing? Where's the ourtrage at the slaughter of thousands of pigs for no apparent reason?
    Joe- Keep it real and keep your family off planes and out of confined spaces- for now.

    April 30, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Mel of Alexandria

    I love Vice President Joe Biden. He gives it to us unfiltered.

    April 30, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. Lmao

    Yet another "what he meant to say" moment from good ol' Joe. If we are to believe the press secretary, then Biden's family must already be exhibing flu-like symptoms. Because Biden is quoted as saying that he would advise his family not to go "anywhere in confined places now."

    April 30, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. Illinois 2

    Joe should keep his mouth shut, he does more harm than good and should not have been picked anyway.....

    April 30, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Allen in Hartwell GA

    To me this sounds like Joe Biden father and husband. Maybe he needs to wear hats so we could know who is speaking – the VP or Joe.
    Get a life!!!

    April 30, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. Mike

    Why apologize for telling the truth?

    April 30, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  18. dreamer

    And we are all supprised the Biden made a gaff?

    April 30, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. Irishny

    Wow,theres a shock!
    Biden not thinking something out before saying! Who'd have thunk it!?

    April 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. Frank

    Only irrational people are in a tissy over his comments. Everybody who ever went to school or watched TV know germs are easily spread in enclosed areas. Only irrational people would not give their loved ones sound advice like this..

    April 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  21. David

    I still like the guy...even if he is turning into a democratic Dan Quayle.

    April 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Sorry Pilan

    Joe will get slammed by the GOP for this one! Your betcha! Fearmongerer!

    April 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. Suzanne

    What he's saying is common sense and probably true. However, it's the type of thing a politician can't say, because god forbid people make their health their first priority and stop going to work, or stop shopping. Anyone remember right after 9/11, the EPA said the air was PERFECTLY SAFE?? Welcome to the machine.

    April 30, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. Obama victim

    BS!

    What Biden said ... to his unsick family ... don't fly or take subways.

    The White House is now "spinning" this to ... er..well... uhhh... he MEANT if you're already sick.....

    For all you who complained about the Bush Administration spinning.. I hope you can see the Obama Spin!

    April 30, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. Shane

    Nonsense. Biden's comment was perfectly clear. He obviously believes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unfortunately, that preventative would devastate the economy, so Obama had to reel him in.

    April 30, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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