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. Anonymous

    They should not have release anything about this. This is dumb, what they forgot to mention in the story is that, biden said "if it was me", "i" no where in that statement did he say stay out of confined spaces, he was telling people what he would do, every one its dumb and they need to quit letting something that doesnt actually affect them, bother them...

    April 30, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Jason King

    Vice-President Biden strikes again. Luckily this isn't baseball, or he'd have had his 3 strikes before he ever was nominated for Vice-President.

    April 30, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. Linda Wertheimer

    All of the media and the White House should be ashamed in the way they made a fool out of Joe Biden's comments this morning. He answered truthfully as to what he would advise his family. That 's more than I can say for the entire media, White House, CDC. WHO. You report all day long on this so-called pandemic and how serious it is and then you tell us to just wash your hands alot and cover your mouth if you cough!

    Don't you think we all have enough to worry about without all of your Swine Flu stories all day long!!! Leave Joe Biden alone. He said nothing wrong but to give his honest opinion regarding his family.

    April 30, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. Bruce

    The "spin doctor" strikes again. I heard what he said. He has told his family not to use public transportation, plain and simple.

    I'm going to do what he said, not what Gibbs would like for him to have said.

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

    What's lost in all this is the deteriorating cleanliness of airplanes cabins and bathrooms and airport bathrooms. Maybe more people would wash their hands if the places they could weren't so filthy and actually had soap dispensers that worked and water that wasn't freezing cold and towels instead of hand dryers that may or may not be working. CNN needs to do a story on airplane air–how often do they really change those filters. As for the cabin, how often do they actually open those trays and wipe them down. Is there anything that can be done so that bathrooms aren't totally foul by the end of a long flight? Maybe the story is: Why isn't America Washing It's Hands?
    PS: Gas stations and restaurants restrooms could be included too.

    April 30, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. The CHief From Cali

    Hey Joe,
    Mind your bussiness!
    You and you Washington Cronies have allowed
    the banks, Wall Street to go rampant. You take care of
    what you are suppose to do and leave the speciaist
    to take care of this sickness!

    April 30, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. Ritter197

    VP Biden said what many of us feel, but it is unfortunately, as so many things, not politic at this time to say it.
    That did not make his remarks wrong.

    April 30, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Gary Herbstman

    The Whitehouse should NOT apologize. This is just common sense. Why does everything have to be filtered by political correctness? Mexico is closing public places for a reason. You don't prevent the spread by ignoring the problem.

    We should also be asking anyone who feels sick to take the proper precautions to prevent spreading it to others I do not hear enough of that.

    April 30, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. Corrine Schlessel

    I agree with Joe Biden 100% . What's all the fuss about? They asked a question and he gave an honest and ( in my opinion) appropriate answer.
    I would tell my family exactly the same thing.
    Right on Joe!

    April 30, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. David Templeton

    At least Biden is thinking clearly enough to realizing the "wash your hands" approach is not an adequate plan for the imported mess!

    April 30, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. George Arlington, TX.

    Give me a break. The stupid republicans only understand things that they can twist to mean something else..........Get over it , you lost the election and your party for the well todo is falling apart. Thank God.

    April 30, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. FreeNLovIt

    Biden is right in expressing these facts. Last year, I got sick from riding the train. The guy next to me took a couple of coughs and I came down with the flu. We need AIR PURIFIERS on public transportation planes, trains and buses. We seriously do.

    My friend bought an AIR purifier and put in her cube and she was the only person in her area withouth the flu and cold.

    Every night, we need to Purify the air in the planees, trains and buses....

    April 30, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. Ron

    Talk about being one heartbeat from the Presidency. I sure hope that Mr. Obama is feeling well.

    April 30, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Bill

    Who cares what old liberal Joe says-most people dont listen to him anyway.If we are told anything from our government which I very likely doubt this swine flu will be traced from the sick mexicans that they are forcing to come to this country.We know that the borders should be closed and take everyone of these people back to mexico-they dont need to be in America.My question is How many democrats would lose votes if you sent the mexicans back to mexico?Thats right thats not why they will be leaving this country-its all about MONEY and VOTES.Wake up American people we are losing our rights and country by the minute.

    April 30, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. Hayden

    Not surprising. Whenever Biden opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. What a waste of a VP. Obama said that his selection would reflect his judgment – it certainly has. Now, I'll wait for the Kool Aid drinking Obamabots to defend their Dear Leader in 3..2..1..

    April 30, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. tom

    Mr. Gibbs has as much personality as a used oil salesman, when he speaks at at a news conference.

    April 30, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. carol

    No apologies necessary for good advice. There was nothing inappropriate about his comment.

    April 30, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. Mike


    April 30, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. Amazed by Biden's Remarks

    I'm amazed at Biden's remark, seeing as I work at the main airport in Austin, and he just flew in and out of here the other day. He didn't seem to mind.

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. Bruce

    I don't know why they're back-pedaling on this one. I'd be nervous about taking any sort of public transportation right now. I think Mr. Biden was well within his rights to say what he did. He does have a tendency to "shoot from the hip" at times, but this time I think he's right on.

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. shark

    political correctness is killing the usa

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. Chris

    I am just waiting for the Obama administration to blame this all on the Previous administration??

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  23. TimM

    I would rather have had Gibbs say that Biden does not speak for the White House. Rather that implying that he meant something completely different than what came out of his mouth.

    I'm OK with Joe Biden having his opinion.
    I'm not OK with Robert Gibbs being dishonest.

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  24. Josh

    Really? Biden said what he said, and there is no way it could have been misconstrued.

    Just apologize and move on without fabricating excuses.

    April 30, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. Linda Ouzts

    I think Joe Biden was absolutely correct when he said we should limit our travels on airplanes . Why take a chance on spreading this flu.
    Also why can't Joe Biden express the way he feels without the press secretary saying what he meant to say........... My gosh! Give Biden a break.

    April 30, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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