Vice President Joseph Biden told a national television audience that he was urging his family to stay off commercial airliners and out of subways for fear of catching the swine flu — referred to by health officials as "H1N1 influenza A" to avoid giving people the impression that the illness can be contracted through contact...
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joseph Biden, already known for his gaffes, pulled a doozy Thursday.
Biden told a national television audience that he was urging his family to stay off commercial airliners and out of subways for fear of catching the swine flu — referred to by health officials as “H1N1 influenza A” to avoid giving people the impression that the illness can be contracted through contact with pigs.
The statement went much further than any from the Obama administration and quickly drew a rebuke from a travel industry fearing a wave of cancellations — and an apology from the White House.
The slip and the rush to damage control were the latest in a long line of misstatements, mistakes and outright gaffes that have marked Biden’s career.
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“He just naturally says what’s on his mind. That is both a cause of concern to some and a charm to others,” said Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University.
Biden’s tendency to say things that are impolitic or incorrect suggests challenges for a White House with an otherwise disciplined message machine.
“This not a matter of going to war, but it does reflect the difficulty the White House has keeping Biden on the reservation,” Gerston said.
“They don’t have control over him,” added Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. “He shoots from the hip. He always has. … This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.”