You’ve heard about Joe Biden’s unfortunate acknowledgement Thursday that he “wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now” due to swine flu. Biden was answering a question from Matt Lauer on the Today show.
The statement quickly rippled across the Web and TV news.
Later Thursday morning, his spokesperson, Elizabeth Alexander, sent an e-mail to journalists trying to clarify the vice president’s remarks. According to USA Today, Alexander noted that the specific question dealt with what Biden would tell a family member making an air trip to Mexico this week.
“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,” she said. “If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways.”
Not so fast, Ms. Alexander.
Yes, Lauer was asking, specifically, what Biden would tell a family member planning an air trip to Mexico, but it was the vice president who quickly broadened the answer to reflect all air travel to anywhere in the world. Here’s the transcript:
Lauer: Let me ask you this, and this is by no means a gotcha type of question, but if a member of your family came to you …
Lauer: No, Mr. Vice President, if a member of your family came to you and said, ‘Look, I want to go on a commercial airliner to Mexico and back within the next week,’ would you think it’s a good idea?
Biden: I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico; it’s that you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. I would not be at this point—if they had another way of transportation—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, a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, it’s a different thing.
Hmm, I don’t think Biden was referring to just Mexico or just if you’re sick. He’s clearly saying no one should travel in confined places.
But nice try, Ms. Alexander.
And by the way, can you clarify what it means to travel in a “closed container”?