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. Brian for Ron Paul

    Hysterical! Not what Cheney said, but that he was a p-- and apologized, despite being one of the most crooked and self-serving people to ever hold public office.

    And he and Bush didn't steal the election. Nooooo, we voted them in fair and square, and we got just what we deserved.

    June 2, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. F, MPLS

    This is pretty funny and second what Peter K said above

    June 2, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  3. Jason

    That old goat Sen. Byrd needs to relax. Being a former member of the KKK, he should be the last person snapping at anyone.

    The democrats need to reunite and tell Byrd to leave the senate already and not to run for re-election. How's that for a change?

    June 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. Typical white person for Obana

    yeah that comment sounds like the republicans and john mcsame

    June 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  5. wanbligi

    Actually the Republicans think those Cheney jokes are funny. If anyone else said that they would be dragged through the media line through and through.

    Think of it Americans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will not be part of the Republican administration again and for that everyone should be singing their lungs out with great rejoice.

    Have a good day. Let's support Barack Obama for President.


    June 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  6. Shammy

    Obama hates America and Americans

    June 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  7. dj

    with the response coming from one of the former higher ups in the ku klux klan, i'd think that they're about even.

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

    Talk about one of the most forgettable V.P.s in history. Didn't "Dick" head up the selection committee that selected himself as the candidate for Vice President? At least he's been consistently corrupt from start to finish.

    June 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. Dustin

    The joke is decent. If I were spending time with friends and someone dropped a similar line, I'd probably have a laugh. It's not something that should be said in a public forum like that, though. But, also, it's not something that should be completely blown out of proportion. Dick Cheney has made mistakes that are much more significant than this...how about we start treating those with more attention instead of getting ridiculously angry about an offhand joke.

    I think the world just needs to lighten up a bit. If any political humorist had said it, everyone would laugh along.

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

    It's no biggie. I think Cheney has the same foot in mouth disease that Huckabee had... They both caught the comedian bug. But every comedian knows, they gotta bomb sometime.

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

    He jokes about West Virginian's and yet by his own admission he is an inbreed idiot.

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

    That is pathetic, especially since his followup seems to indicate that he thought about giving that "joke" ahead of time (although not necessarily for this speech).

    Well, I guess Sen. McCain will find plenty of other engagements to attend to whenever Cheney's invited to a fundraiser or event between now an November.

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

    I don't see anything controversial or offensive in Cheney's humor. We all make jokes in speeches.

    Grow up those who are offended. You're just continuing to show the world that America is always bringing up issues on problems that don't exist.

    Byrd belongs in a retire home not in the senate chamber.

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

    Funny. We people over here drag ourselves down by making inbreeding jokes on ourselves, when that whole thing goes on in the Middle East as a culture thing. But we too bleeding heart to say they are a bunch of inbreed idiots.

    June 2, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. chris from san antonio

    RE: Mark June 2nd, 2008 7:59 pm ET
    Where are all the Republicans lashing out at this remark and calling Cheney an "elitist"?

    They're busy calling Obama elitist for being black and raised by a single mother and for taking a job as a community organizer.

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

    Shades of "Lll Bush"!!!!I Is this life imitating art or what?? Did those writers get Cheney's character right or what??!!!

    June 2, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  17. David Newport, OR

    hey at least he didnt have a gun in his hand at the time

    June 2, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  18. s

    Well I guess Obama won't have to campaign for WV now......well was he going to in the first place? At least Hillary doesn't write off the contests she won't win like BO. Cheney over Obama any day!
    NY, NJ, Arkansas, arizona, california, oklahoma, tennessee, kentucky, WV, New Hampshire, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and all the other millions of voters who made the right choice in the 'Bama states, WELL DONE, at least you people have a good vision for America, plus you outnumber the Obama voters! Good Job.

    Thank God I live in Canada. We rarely have Deputy Prime Ministers.

    June 2, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  19. Marjorie Helms, Amherst, NY

    What? You're shocked that our vice president could have the nerve to mock the people from West Virginia? My goodness – why, you're probably even shocked by the fact that he helped to send thousands of young Americans to their deaths in an unnecessary war! Oh, give us a break, Vice President Dick......

    June 2, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  20. Pittsburgh

    MG!!! PLEASE PLEASE don't let another Republican in the WHITE . HOUSE! I'll swallow hard....do anything I have to.....listen to whomever....but I will not vote Republican this time around!!!!!

    This man is not a good man.

    June 2, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  21. Chris

    If the shoe fits...

    June 2, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  22. Vernon

    If Barack Obama had said that they would be all over him!!

    June 2, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. Ed NJ

    This fall should be interesting.

    Will West Virginia's bigotry towards race being a factor (The highest among exit poll states) for the Democratic nominee be stronger than their resentment towards a Republican party that has one of it's strongest leaders express such hideous low life thoughts of West Virginians.

    June 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  24. LA

    Cheney probably saw "Escape from Guantanamo Bay".

    June 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. MarkS

    If John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, David Letterman, or Bill Maher said this, it would be funny and people would laugh.

    Cheney says it, and it's reprehensible.

    This is what I love about the left. Total inconsistency depending on which way the wind is blowing.

    June 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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