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. hawkeye

    No need. Any itelligent person might say the same thing. Why do we always need to find ault. He wa spending time with his family.f

    April 30, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. rin

    bottomline line it wasnt a stupid comment biden made...he spoke the truth! get over it already

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  3. Fairfax Voter

    I love Joe Biden. He says what he thinks and this made sense to me even if it was not the official line.

    If we are at the point when a minor moment of saying a little more than he should causes sends Americans into hysterics, then who is really the fool?

    The truth is, though, I think it is just a media-driven tempest in a teapot. No normal person would have been freaked out by that upbeat interview.

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. complete morons are running our country

    ~270 cases world wide ,,,, ummm ,,, that's a lot of zeroes after the dot on the calculator when you do a percent comparison to the world population. Obama-bin-Biden are fools and we are being entertained by their court of jesters.

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  5. Roslyn Manley

    To hell with the current apologetic explanations. Biden was asked what he would tell his family. I believe he answered the question honestly and "to hell" with political answers. I applaud his statement and deplore the explanations of what he meant by the White House and Biden.

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  6. BobR

    Here we go again–"the definition of 'is" is....."

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Terry

    I know it is not a PC comment for Joe to make, but I happen to agree with him. Even if I don't feel sick myself, I can guarantee you that there will be others who think their work is so important, they must be on the subway or the airplane, coughing and sneezing. The solution for sick worker bees is to telecomute or stay home, that is what Joe needed to advise.

    I am more aware of being in confined spaces, at least until we can see where this is going.

    I know the airline industry and the transit folks are probably in a huff over this comment, but stuff happens. I know they say wearing masks does not offer protection, but there are some medical masks that protect against influenza viruses. If this stuff breaks out, the airlines should have a supply to provide to their passengers.

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. if you can drive, way more comfortable

    the airline industry is killing themselves by all this nickle and diming the public

    it was never fun to fly, now it is not fun and you are nickle and dimed

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. Ava

    It's a reckless, irresponsible and uninformed comment. In addition, it just cost thousands of additional job loses in the hotel, air and supporting industries.

    April 30, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. Fred

    What's widely regarded is the myth of poor aircraft air quality. A simple google search will find studies disupting Biden's understanding of disease transmission on planes. An adminstration with a "Repsect for Science" would issue a clarification.

    April 30, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Jared

    I would tell my family to do the same thing. Would you? Or, would you rather make sure the airlines and subway make their dues? As for him causing fear and panic, I think the "TERROR ALERT" system has kept us in panic mode for the last 8yrs. I think this is a wake up call for our borders. If terrorists wanted to find the opening in our borders, they just did. CLOSE THE BORDERS!

    April 30, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. R Wolf

    This Administration needs to quit apologizing for things that are said that are true. Yes, I can see where this would cause greater worry, but it's not anything people aren't already thinking. Give people more credit for being able to think things through and making their own decisions.

    April 30, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. robert

    It's amusing to hear right wingers complain about how Obama is embarassing this nation througout the world. Um, the rest of the world does not agree. The majority of this nation does not agree. The real embarassment? Right wing ignorance, littleness, meaness.

    April 30, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. mk

    Biden just said what we are all thinking .
    SO what? It's about time we had REAL PEOPLE leading this country.
    If you keep asking to only be told what you want to hear we will never move forward/

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. TrishInNJ

    If I had to make a choice I rather have a vice president putting his foot in his mouth all the time then a President.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Arlene, Roselle, Illinois

    Right on Joe, this is just what the networks needed, now that
    Blogo isn't going to give them anything to report on.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. Kim in Arizona, FOR NOW

    He was right!!! He should NOT apologize! Its ignorant that this is blowing up like this, he was talking as a father, husband, and an American. He said if you dont have to be in close quarters in areas that the flu has been found, DONT!! Schools are closing all over the country for this, is THAT stupid?? NO! Its better to be TOO protected, and not under protected. He has NOTHING to be sorry about and I stand behind him 100%!! The guy may be too honest, but there is NOTHING wrong with that.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Samilton

    I understood perfectly what VP Biden meant. We are really blowing this situation out of proportion.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  19. It's Obvious

    Look, just like the situation with a fly-over photo op, this is another example of how the politicians don't see the bigger picture. And the picture is that the average person is not on their email distribution list (to be aware of the photo-op) and also does not read the mind of VP when he speaks to address the nation. We are not in the business of translating what VP has to say. He should have known better and used his words wisely. That is why those guys have speech writers, or so I thought?! Anyhow, its over now and lets move on to bigger and better things...

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Steven Ahrens

    I guess he should have lied and not said what he did. They asked what he would tell his own family... it is exactly what I would tell my family.
    I think it's too bad they have to try and cover up what he meant. They asked for his opinion and they got it. If he said officially he was not concerned about travel etc, then they probably would have been upset to find out he told his family not to, and then wonder what the government is hiding. You can't win.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. BJK

    If this is the worst mistake that is made, I have no problem with it.

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Kelby In Houston, TX

    There is no need to apologize. I was not alarmed by his comments. Joe is keeping it real, as usual. I know some people are not used to this and refer to his statements as gaffes. I like Joe. Joe is cool G.I. Joe!

    And remember, the last VP shot a man in the face with a gun and the man he shot, apologized for the incident....IN THE FACE!

    Yeah, Joe making a gaffe while trying to tell everybody to be safe....I'll take Joe any day

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. bon

    Here you go again, Joe!

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Justin

    WH needs to stop apologizing. First of all it's not like they ignored a memo titled "Al Qaeda Determined to Strike Instide the US" or anything. Second the advice was not necessarily bad – if you don't need to be in a crowded space, don't. Third even if it was bad advice, the only people who pay attention to Joe the Biden are neocons looking for a distraction from the fact that their party destroyed the world.

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. reddog

    we really do have the wrong veep.

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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