VP Biden Learns Need for Measured Response

Years ago when teaching as an adjunct at St. John’s University, I taught my class the value of giving measured responses to media inquiries, especially in a time of crisis.  This morning during his appearance on the Today Show, Vice President Joe Biden showed how important it is for public figures to be measured in their responses. The Vice President, when asked by host Matt Lauer about the swine flu crisis, gave this response:

“I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said when Matt Lauer asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation.

“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 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. ” 

The vice president also implied that schools should be closed as the threat of swine flu increases.

“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 closed car or closed classroom it’s a different thing.” 

A couple of hours later, following a public rebuke by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Vice President’s office issued a clarifying statement.

The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving 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. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week,” Biden’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander, said in a statement.

One of the things that has cemented President Obama’s status as a communicator is his ability to stay on message and be measured at all times.  Perhaps he should take his vice president into a conference  room and media train him or at least, loan him his teleprompter with a controlled message programmed in.

Tom Cosentino

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