Swine flu: Biden tells family to stay off planes
Joe Biden said today that he advised his family to stay off airplanes and subways because of the swine flu, a remark that forced the vice president's office to backtrack, the travel industry to cry foul and other government officials to try to massage Biden's message.
"I would tell members of my family - and I have - that I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said on NBC television's "Today" show.
Biden, who has a reputation for off-the-cuff remarks, went beyond any precautions recommended by the federal government. In discussing his personal advice to his family, he said simply, "That's me."
Within two hours, Biden's office issued a statement backing off the remarks and suggesting he was talking about travel to Mexico.
"On the 'Today Show' this morning, the vice president was asked what he would tell a family member who was considering air travel to Mexico this week," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander. "The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways."
Biden, who has three grown children and five grandchildren, was asked whether he would advise his own family against flying to Mexico on a commercial flight.
"It's not just going to Mexico, if you're in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft," Biden said on NBC. "That's me. I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding nonessential travel to Mexico. But it isn't recommending that people avoid other travel because of the swine flu.
The airline and travel industries were quick to criticize Biden's remarks.
James May, president of the Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, sent Biden a letter expressing "extreme disappointment at your suggestion that people should avoid air travel."
American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith declined to comment directly on the vice president's remarks, but said, "To suggest that people not fly at this stage of things is a broad brush stroke bordering on fear mongering."
The US Travel Association President Roger Dow urged the public to "heed the advice of medical experts" and gently chided the vice president without specifically mentioning him.
"Elected officials must strike a delicate balance of accurately and adequately informing citizens of health concerns without unduly discouraging travel and other important economic activity," Dow said in a statement.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano offered to rewrite Biden's words for him: "I think the vice president ... if he could say that over again, he would say if they're feeling sick, they should stay off of public transit or confined spaces because that is indeed the advice that we're giving," she said on MSNBC.
On Radio Iowa this morning, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin was less forgiving, calling it "a very unfortunate statement by the vice president."
During his decades as Delaware senator, Biden was a regular on Amtrak, riding the train from Wilmington to Washington.
Asked on NBC's "Today" show whether the U.S. government should close the border with Mexico, Biden said health authorities advise that would be impractical and noted the new flu is already in the US and several other nations.
Instead, Biden said, the focus should be on slowing the spread of the virus through groups of people in close quarters, such as airplanes, malls, stadiums and classrooms.
"Closing the classroom and closing the border are two fundamentally different things," he said.
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Lee Rigby murder: How killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale became ultra-violent radicals
Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
Paul Walker death caused by speed alone
Apollo Theatre collapse: Scores injured after ceiling collapses in London's West End
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 North Koreans are gasping for the truth: Let's give it to them
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- < Previous
- Next >
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Secondary Maths Teache...
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: A well-renowned London based...
£75000 - £110000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Economist or Tax profession...
£55000 - £120000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Financial Services Tran...