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. Jackson

    Byrd should lighten up .. it was funny!! ... anyway isn't Byrd endorsing NObama ... that's funny tooooooooooooo!

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


    June 2, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  3. Venus

    Oh well! Now the good people of WV can see what's true!

    They didn't want to vote for Obama as some say because of his skin color!!!

    I liked how Cheney added "you can say that when you don't need to run for re-election". He should of thought how about McSame is going to do this year!

    June 2, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. will E.

    You know what West Virginians do on halloween?


    June 2, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. CTP

    Who is surprised? What do you expect from a thing like Cheney? Well, West Virginia, you voted for him so you get what you got! And don't think McCain is different just because he hasn't made the same joke – he's too old to know what a joke is anymore.

    June 2, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  6. John

    How PC!! Now we have to protect inbreds?

    No matter, Cheney is....Cheney. Between his daughter and Cousin BH, how does he sleep?

    June 2, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. Clayton

    Once again we see that Dems are elitists.

    June 2, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  8. Jewel - NC

    glad you are leaving.

    June 2, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  9. Dan, TX

    Can we stop playing Gotcha? We are throwing away money right and left under the republicans. They spend but don't pay for anything.

    Obama is for TAX CUTS. McCAIN is NOT. TAX CUTS = OBAMA. Vote Obama and stop giving your money to the republicans in Washington.

    June 2, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  10. Pittsburgh

    Vernon: I agree. FOX has now started another rumor (in addition to the erroneous Obama/Muslim thing. Now they're circulating that Katrina money has gone to BO Trinity Church......blah blah blah...
    I find it so puzzlling how people just believe whatever is posted or circulated and never try to confirm any facts. Facts? Why would anyone (Fox) bother with that? I think it would take all the fun outta of it.

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

    I teach high school in West Virginia. My students have enough of a self-respect problem without our boob of a VP perpetuating this hurtful stereotype.

    Thanks, Cheney. You just saved me a lot of time deciding which party I would back in the election.


    June 2, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. WH

    OMgG......can anybody say anything without giving an apology fot it?



    June 2, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. isaiah

    i dont even like cheney, but that was one of the funniest things ive ever read

    June 2, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  14. Darryl M. Arlington TX

    Chaney show so little respect for the common person it it truly sad...

    June 2, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  15. Jim

    So the former klansman, Senator Byrd is outraged! Wow! Think the West Virginians will vote Democratic in the fall? Nah, The Democrats don't share their values......

    June 2, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  16. Lance

    Thanks Dick (appropriate name by the way)! Please make a few more comments like that about other swing states.

    June 2, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. rexx

    oh please people it was a joke. West Virginia will vote for McCain.

    June 2, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  18. Darryl M. Arlington TX

    He is the reason why the Oil Prices are so HIgh....

    June 2, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  19. carlo

    Cheney apologized for something?

    June 2, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. Alex

    I don't like Cheney for a whole number of reasons, but since I've lived in WV for the past 13 years, I'm inclined to agree with him. There is A LOT of trash here, and I'm not talking about the crap that litters the side of the road, although we have plenty of that, too.

    June 2, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  21. Allen Richards

    Oh shut up with the whining. For a state that voted for Hillary, I don't know why they are offended by this joke.

    June 2, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  22. Chuckles

    Funny cause it's true!

    June 2, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  23. Rene D, Bel Air, MD

    Sir VP, go breed with your own self.

    June 2, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  24. Matt

    That would have been funny as ... had it been made by a comedian who's job it is to make jokes. Coming from the VP of the country it's pretty insulting to all Americans! It just goes to show how little regard he truly shows the citizens of this country. I'm surprised his spokeswoman didn't reply with the following comment:

    On reflection, he concluded so what.

    For all of you who voted for him and the other stooge the last 2 elections I hope you don't feel the need to share your opinion here on this. I hope even more that you don't make the same mistake for a third time.

    June 2, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  25. dem

    That's funny. I seem to remember about half of all of Obama supporters joking about WV inbreeding.


    June 2, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
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