April 30th, 2009
08:22 PM ET
13 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. S Alexander

    My God, when will they let Joe be Joe!

    April 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Only1359Left

    HAHAHA another denial & foot in mouth event for both Biden & his leader. And people called bush uneducated. Goes to show how this administration doesn't know how to tie a shoe let alone run a country. 1359 days till their out & the damage stops.

    April 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Shane

    If that is what he meant, then why would he urge his family not to travel in confined spaces? Do they all have flu-like symptoms?

    April 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. RR

    what he meant to say that "if you feel sick...."

    He said NOTHING like that! He wanted well members of his family to avoid public places like subways and airplanes.

    Why can't Gibbs be honest and say Biden is WRONG?

    April 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Not Sorry

    These guys apologize so much can anyone take them seriously?
    WOLF! ~ I'm Sorry ~ WOLF! ~ Don't Worry ~ WOLF etc.
    The last thing we need right now is a bunch of PC nonsense.
    Let your yes be yes and your no be no and quit apologizing. It's embarrassing!

    April 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. David

    Gibbs lying again to cover up bumbler Biden. Read Biden's comments again and they dont jive with Gibbs 'smooth over' attempt.

    Great Choice Obama! Biden can't help himself but say something stupid.

    And the libs made fun of Quayle? HA.

    April 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Misa

    He's not saying anything that most of us don't already think. I don't care that he said that and I think people should be cautious...period. Nothing wrong with that. I think the travel industry got mad about it because their pockets might start feeling a tad lighter. But let's be real...if it gets worse...it's bound to happen.

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. No More Incumbents

    Biden already has foot in mouth disease

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Megan

    Thank you White House for the apology. As for the Biden comment, it is unbelievable that he would come out and scare the public like that. This is a serious matter, however, putting the nation into a panic will not help the situation.

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Charlie in Maine

    Give me a break. Can't the VP be honest. I know it is a shock after 8 years of Cheney's lies but Biden was right the first time.

    So I guess I finally disagree with the Obama Administration on something. In a way though that makes his Presidency seem more real now that I disagree with them.

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Ren from Baltimore

    Joe, we still love ya. But the WH has to let you out more often so you can keep your speaking game sharp. You know it's a troubling time, and people fear the unknown too much; no need to give them a push in the fearful direction, really. Let's stay upbeat!

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  12. change has arrived

    I appreicate V.P Biden's remarks, we are in a PANDEMIC, it's already all over the world, what more proof do we need, we need to close all our schools for at least two weeks, it's better to take the precausions and it not happen than to risk our childrens lives.

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. ty from atlanta

    well, here comes biden again with off-the-cuff remarks....
    this "pandemic" is just overhyped by the media!

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. fishcough

    "White House apologizes for ... Biden comments"

    Over/under on some variation of this headline over the next four years: 36.

    April 30, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. bill martino

    Obama has some real geniuses working for him. First the plane over Manhattan and then this guy who you never hear anything from comes out and tells you to lock yourself in the closet. What's next?

    April 30, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. OReally

    Apologize for voicing common sense? Surely you jest.

    Commercial aircraft are widely acknowledged as the second best (worst?) place to catch something contageous behind hospitals. Does this suggest the airlines would prefer to risk lives in order to fill their seats?

    April 30, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. KayMA

    Seems to me you'd have to be a numskull not to understand what Biden meant by his remarks.

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. Karen S Crow

    OK .. VP Biden may not be the sharpest tool on the shed ... but I honestly believe that he was stating what he believed.

    Look ... this flu is only a couple of mutations away from making the switch from a minor inconvenience to being a global killer ... And that should scare the bejeebers out of folks.

    He means well ... Didn't SAY it well ... but I think he means well.

    But in the future ... he needs to give a LITTLE more thought as to HOW his words will be received, especially when the media is already a little on the jumpy side.

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Robin

    So who is going to replace Ole' Joe in the next election? lol

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. Larry

    No apologies needed

    Thanks for doing a great job ...

    Yours Truly

    America ...

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  21. Debra Larsen

    I watched the full interview with Vice President Biden. I had no problem with his responses and I don't feel any apology was necessary. He is simply expressing common sense! After all, since the outbreak we have seen several reports on the news suggesting to avoid travel if you don't have to and many people have postponed their plans. Mr. Biden was simply restating what has already been said by others in previous days. Also, think about this...if you have another way of travel, wouldn't YOU use that instead of the subway? Anybody using common sense, would use an alternative travel method....if they have the option. He was only reminding people to use common sense in any traveling during this time. If you have to be in a crowded situation, wear a mask, wash your hands....common sense. This is nothing more than someone trying to imply the vice president is making the wrong response. He made the right response.....use common sense. Who in their right mind would travel right now if you have the option not to? He stresses caution, maybe the media should be pointing that out instead.

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  22. Val

    Biden is starting to sound like the Dan Quayle of the Jimmy Carter years..

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  23. Jamie

    I think it is so silly that he has to apologize for saying what he thinks. That is one of this Countries biggest problems in politics. You aren't allowed to stray from the party or your bosses line. Everybody wants a yes man/woman. How many people out there have come home with a cold after flying somewhere? We all know that it is more likely than not to happen. So if you don't want the flu you really should consider staying off that air plane. It didn't walk to Ohio.

    April 30, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  24. True American

    People need to stop being so sensitve. If they are so learned themselves then what VP Biden said should not have alarmed them. They should have already known that as it is just common sense. Let's focus on the REAL issues and not throw dust.

    April 30, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  25. Cecilia in VA

    There he goes again, saying something stupid. Way to go, Joe! Keep them comin'.

    April 30, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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