Biden manages to anger everyone over bad flu advice

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    Vice President Biden rides again. The Veep's candid remarks regarding flu prevention got him in hot water today with many in the travel industry issuing condemnation statements. Not only did his office rescind what he said, but the White House Press Secretary was visibly irritated that he had to deal with it.
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It could be Vice President Biden's biggest gaffe in ..... weeks!

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs turned into a stand-up comedian today when tap dancing around Joe Biden's controversial remarks this morning on the flu.

If you didn't hear about Biden's appearance on the Today Show, he basically said that in order to remain safe from the flu, people should avoid cars, planes, classrooms, trains, subways, and confined spaces.

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Where should they go? Biden said the "middle of a field" was pretty safe. (You can read more about it here).

Press briefing

When asked about his remarks, Gibbs responded, "What the vice president meant to say was ... if you feel sick, if you exhibit flu-like symptoms ... you should take precautions and you should limit your travel.."

Not good enough for ABC's Jake Tapper, who followed up with a real question instead of asking something silly like what the vice president was enchanted with.

"With all due respect, and I sympathize with you trying to explain the vice president's comments, that's not even remotely close to what he said," Tapper said.

"I understand what he said, and I'm telling you what he meant to say," Gibbs said to an avalanche of laughter.

Of course, only moments after Biden got off the set of the Today Show, his press office -- well versed in this routine -- sent out a statement clarifying what he meant. You can read about that here.

Further clarity

Now everyone is clarifying what he meant. Like American Airlines. They ain't happy.

"To suggest that people not fly at this stage of things is a broad brush stroke bordering on fear mongering," American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said. "The facts of the situation at this stage anyway certainly don't support that."

"American Airlines flies approximately 250,000 passengers a day and as of today, we have not had one ill passenger test positive for swine flu," he added.

Me too

The Air Transport Association concurred. The CEO of the airline industry trade organization wrote a letter to the vice president and to make sure he received it (in case the mailman forgot to deliver it), they mass-blasted it out to all the media.

"On behalf of the nation’s airlines, I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at your suggestion that people should avoid air travel in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak," wrote James C. May.

"The fact is that the air onboard a commercial aircraft is cleaner than that in most public buildings," he added.

Of course that statement could lead to stampedes of screaming people fleeing from public buildings, but that's another issue.

More

And the US Travel Association chimed in. President Roger Dow said the public should "heed the advice of medical experts" instead of the vice president. Well, he didn't mention him by name. But, we're assuming that's who he meant.

"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," he said.

Even more

And the VP's old pal Senator Tom Harkin, appearing on Radio Iowa, said Biden's advice was "very unfortunate."

"We just don't need that kind of misinformation going out. I wish the vice president had checked with the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before he made such a statement," he said.

Sum it up

Perhaps the conservative website Red State issued the best statement:

"If President Obama wishes to handle this crisis by sending Vice President Biden to an undisclosed location until it’s over, well, sacrifices must be made," they wrote.

Although it sounds like Biden is having a bad day, at least he wasn't responsible for the 9/11 coloring book. Click here for that story.

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