April 30th, 2009
08:22 PM ET
14 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. Nin Ki

    Vice President Biden spoke the truth as he sees it concerning travel at this point in time with a possible pandemic in the wings. Good for him.
    This weekend my community has its biggest festival of the year – 100,000 attendees in a city of fifty thousand is barely average. This year I will not be attending. I see no reason to take unnessesary chances under the circumstances.
    By no means am I in a panic. In fact, by taking sensible precautions I feel confident that I and my elderly stepfather will have no problems.
    People need to calm down and use their heads. That includes politicos. They just need to understand that what the vice president said was his opinion and he has a right to it – as do we all.

    April 30, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  2. mrsaint

    Biden please do us all a favor and read off a script like Obama...

    April 30, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. thetruth

    sorry gibbs, but Biden said what he said and meant it–I think that as Matt Lauer posed the question Biden took it personally and answered in a personal manner, he meant what he said. You just came in and cleaned it up to mitigate the resultant damaging fall-out, that is after all part of your job. Perhaps VPJB missed the meeting that morning on the talking points for the day.

    April 30, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Todd

    I love how the white house has to tell us what he means...I think he knows what he is saying.....makes them look like idiots.

    April 30, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Bev - NYC

    Correcting Biden's statements only makes it worse. He said it, it was true, leave it alone, the adminstration knew they where getting the male version of Sophia on the Golden Girls when they choose him. I've cancelled plans to attend a July destination wedding in Mexico. I wasn't crazy about the drug cartel wars in Mexico City, now a mutating flu bug just seals it. Also when the WHO takes the time to raise the outbreak levels, something's going on. I don't recall WHO raising levels during SARS, or Bird Flu. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to use public tranportation, but I am mindfull of sneezing and coughing people who cough or sneeze and tghen hold the pole withthe same hand, disgusting. This being allergy season it's hard to distinguish, everyone needs to take precautions.

    April 30, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. Ivan

    What has happened to this country? Joe Biden speaks and the repug jackals pounce...no matter what was said or meant.

    April 30, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. Gwen Hunt

    I think airplanes are very prone to spread air borne viruses. I don't know why everyone says that Biden over spoke.

    April 30, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  8. Harvey for Obama

    There is nothing wrong with what Biden said. Get a grip people. What a bunch of nonsense.

    April 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  9. Mike

    Yet another case of openus mouthus insertus footus...seems rampant in the current administration. Possibly a pandemic!

    April 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  10. Crazy ass human being

    He said what he said- -It was stupid. Then some guy comes on and said what he meant to say – -He was stupid. Stupid is as stupid does.
    Forrest once said. I support Obama to the fullest, but sometimes he
    takes too long to just answer the question. Unlike shrub who just couldn't answer the question. Just an ordinary human being trying to muddle my way through this crazy ass world

    April 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. Tiffany Sloan

    Biden answered the question he was asked "What would you tell your family members?" So those of you who are angry would rather have him lie to the American people. Biden actually spoke honestly to us and did not put economics or politics above taking basic precautionary measures to prevent infection. The dumbing down of America is a painful thing to read and watch.

    April 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  12. Meagan

    The White House is in a sticky situation. Say too much about swine flu and people will panic, thinking it's the next bubonic plague. Say too little and they are ignoring the issue.

    Quite frankly, I couldn't care less that Joe Biden misspoke or even if he meant what he said. I'm a supporter of this administration but I don't take my health advice from Biden. I'd rather listen to WHO and the CDC.

    April 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  13. SF Serg

    What's the problem? Biden is just being honest and you can't handle the truth. You expect him to say, 'Go out and enjoy the friendly skies. Take the kids down to DisneyWorld'. Grow up people!

    April 30, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  14. Blundering fool

    Talk about the party of fear mongering!! I'll bet the airlines are just loving this blundering fool. This is not even an airborne flu. Biden makes George W Bush and Dan Quayle look like Albert Einstein. I can't wait for the next 3 years and 9 months for more moronic statements.

    April 30, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  15. patricia

    What did Vice President Biden say that won't probably turn out to be the truth?. We SHOULD stay home and limit unnecessary travel. Not everything is about money and power, and Mr. Biden understands that concept. I like the man and his honesty, I just wish the White House staff would leave him alone and not correct his comments.

    April 30, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. Brian

    Some of you will excuse any behavior if it comes from "your guy". Here is a news flash. Each one of you who pine for Dems or Repubs is nothing but a puppet on a string. Find a third party, get rid of all of these guys.

    April 30, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  17. Ray Fisher

    Get over it White House, America loves a leader who speaks his mind, his words only echoed common sense!!!

    May 1, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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