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Biden Backtracks on Swine Flu Travel Gaffe

(Getty Images)

Does Joe Biden seriously not think at all about what comes out of his mouth, or did he just wake up this morning with a hankering for panic?

The Vice President has been forced to backtrack off statements he made during a Today show interview with Matt Lauer where the two were discussing the big scary apocalyptic topic of the day -- swine flu. When asked by Lauer whether he would freak out over a family member flying to Mexico and back, Biden did his best to scare people away from planes, trains, and yes, even automobiles.

"I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," he said. "It's not that it's going to Mexico, it's that you're in a confined aircraft and 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 transporatation -- 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 a closed container or a closed car, a closed classroom, that's another thing."

Obviously the travel industry was not happy. American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told the AP, "To suggest that people not fly at this stage of things is a broad brush stroke bordering on fear mongering."

Within two hours of the interview, Biden's office was trying to spin the VP's words, implying that he was only talking about Mexico after he said in the Lauer interview that it's not just about 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," spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said. "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."

Ugh. Come on. Everybody already half suspects Barack Obama is cringing half the time Joe Biden opens his mouth. But at this point you can just see him in his office thinking "even John Edwards would have been better than this."

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