On the “Today” show on NBC this morning, Vice President Joe Biden said this was not a good time to ride subways or travel by aircraft due to the N1H1 flu.
“I would not be at this point … [be] suggesting they ride the subway,” Biden said when asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation.
Biden made his comments during a brief interview on NBC’s “Today” show during an interview with Matt Lauer.
The vice president said if one person sneezes on a plane “it goes all the way through the aircraft.”
American Airlines responded by saying Joe Biden was “fear mongering.”
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.”
“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.
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 facts of the situation at this stage anyway certainly don’t support that,” Smith told The Associated Press.
Geoff Freeman, the senior vice president of the Travel Industry Association of America, called Biden’s comments “unfortunate.”
“We need to leave this in the hands of the medical experts, and medical experts are not discouraging anyone” from using these modes of transportation, he said.
Biden and other government officials “need to be very cognizant of the words they use and not make inflammatory comments.”
“We’re pleased to see theworking to clarify these comments, and we urge all to watch their words because they can take on a life of their own.”