June 3rd, 2008
06:12 AM ET
15 years ago

Cheney apologizes to West Virginians for inbreeding joke

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/02/art.cheneynpc0602.gi.jpg caption="Cheney’s West Virginia joke drew fire from Sen. Byrd."] WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney apologized Monday for what his spokeswoman called "an inappropriate attempt at humor" that implied that inbreeding is common among West Virginians, a remark that elicited outrage from the state's senior senator.

Asked during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club about the fact that a search of his family tree found he is a distant relative of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner, Cheney said the two politicians were unlikely to hold a family reunion.

He said that the Cheney line on his father's side of the family dates to 1630's, and a Cheney family line on his mother's side dates to the 1650's.

"So, I had Cheneys on both sides of the family - and we don't even live in West Virginia," Cheney cracked. After pausing for laughter from the crowd, Cheney added, "You can say those things when you're not running for re-election."

Afterward, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd lashed out at Cheney for the "insult to all Americans." In a written statement, Byrd declared that Cheney showed "contempt and astounding ignorance toward his own countrymen" with the comments.

"Now that he or the administration he represents no longer needs their vote, Mr. Cheney apparently feels that he is now free to mock and belittle the people of West Virginia," said Byrd, a Democrat. "With his trademark arrogance, the vice president even added, 'You can say those things when you're not running for re-election.' "

He added, "This pitiful comment is not entirely surprising when you consider the source. Vice President Cheney's words reflect the attitude of an administration and a party that says what they must to get elected and then turns their backs on those they promised to represent."

Shortly thereafter, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said Cheney's "offhand comment was not meant to hurt anyone.

"On reflection, he concluded that it was an inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made. The vice president apologizes to the people of West Virginia for the inappropriate remark," McBride said.

Filed under: Vice President Cheney
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. joihn briscoe

    try again...spellin' glitch.
    Dear Mr. Cheney,
    Do you think that has something to do with your daughter prefering women instead of men, or did you personally have somthing to do with that?

    June 2, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. Bill

    Dick – I, too, noticed 100,000 people but only 10 last names?

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. Lmaoburger and Roflfries

    Well let's be honest here...he shot his own friend...

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. An inadequate Black male...according to Harriet Christian

    To Steve B...not funny at all. Not being a gracious winner is worse than being a sore loser. Stay out of the mud bruh...remember that everyone will be sensitive about HRC's loss...and we need them in the fall.

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  5. David, Santa Rosa, CA

    Well, I'm NOT a Cheney fan, but the guy made a joke and though it was politically incorrect, it was kinda sorta funny.

    Obviously, Dick knew it was gonna get him in trouble and he didn't care. That's his hallmark. He just doesn't care about anything beyond his world of oil and profits.

    Still, it was funny.

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  6. Bruce - Chicago

    Ha! That was great, lighten up West Viginians, if it wasn't partly true you wouldn't be so mad. Good stuff Cheney, I don't like your politics all the time but funny is funny.

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  7. Lonely Pedant

    For what (little) it's worth, that was a proper apology.

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  8. Mike NYC

    The sad thing is that if Cheney was running against Obama – West Virginia would still vote for him after a comment like that, just because the other guy is black. Ignorance/Racism is so pathetic.

    June 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  9. Gary in VA

    No sympathy for West Virginia. They voted for him in 2000 and 2004. Prime example of thinking you know best when you really don't. You got exactly what you deserve and with McCain you'll get more. So if you elect McCain get your insurance paid up and burial plots ready for aleast the next 100 years of Iraq.

    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  10. Calimari Caty

    Some of you need to lighten up – without the occasional bit of inbreeding there would be no human population.

    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  11. JPC

    Nothing but political correctness behind all the arch and offended responses.

    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    West Virginians are dying because of you and your side-kick McCheney!!!!!!!


    Send your daughter and her wife to war – I dare you !!!!!!

    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  13. Wow!

    I bet they are REALLY glad they voted for him 8 years ago.


    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  14. Wendy

    Did anyone see "Weekend At Bernie"s"???? Dick is really Bernie!

    June 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  15. Carlos

    Political Correctness run amuck. You cant even make a joke these days in front of 2000 liberal journalists who hate you? Please quit wasting time with this nonsense.

    It must be true though that all West Virginians are inbred, why would they get so upset otherwise?

    June 2, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  16. Mark

    I know people from West Virginia who make the same jokes. I've been hearing them for 30+ years. And we don't every make wisecracks about people from New Jersey? California? Mississippi? Texas?

    Wait... Texas? Oh wait... all of you people in the comments here who are trying to act "shocked" at his "insensitivity"... you've never made any jokes about people from Texas have you? Pullleeeze...

    What a bunch of think skinned turkeys you all sound like... It's a joke!! He was clear that it was a joke!! If you don't think it's funny, don't laugh and move on. Try turning watching late night television and you find out that jokes like this are run of the mill and most reasonable American's don't get offended at them.

    June 2, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |

    I'll be very happy to see obama supporters taxed to death to support their King. I'm retired, so it won't touch me. How on earth can 50% of the American people be so stupid......so gullible.

    June 2, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  18. Tom

    wait, are you saying "inbred-American" is NOT the PC term for hillbilly?

    and to think I thought I was "enlightened", having lived in NW Arkansas for six years and all...

    June 2, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  19. smarter than thou

    Vig, I bet you voted for Bush Cheney too.

    June 2, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  20. tommy jonq

    like the man said, he doesn't care what robert byrd or sean hannity or oprah winfrey thinks of him. so go ahead and gripe.

    June 2, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  21. chris from san antonio

    No, sir, you can say those things when you have absolutely nothing but contempt for the people you are supposed to be serving.

    On an unrelated note, this is hardly surprising from a man that has no moral or ethical standards.

    On a related note, this is the face of the republican party. Note the laughter. This is what they have become. Be proud.

    June 2, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  22. Cameron

    What's worse? The guy who tells the joke or the 2,000 liberal journalists who laughed at it?

    June 2, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  23. Jerry D

    Oh for god's sake, it was a joke. Get over it people.

    You know what a W. Va virgin is? A girl who can run faster than her brothers.

    June 2, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  24. big Al

    I don't think West Virginians even get the joke. Did you see the exit poll comments from voters after the Democratic primaries there?

    June 2, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  25. GREG


    June 2, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
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