By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Vice President Cheney apologized for saying yesterday that he has "Cheneys on both sides" of his family tree dating back to the 1600s, "And we don't even live in West Virginia."
The quip drew groans from the audience at the National Press Club, prompting the vice president to add, "You can say those things when you're not running for reelection." (The White House transcript of Cheney's comments, released last night, described laughter instead of groans.)
The remark drew swift denunciations from West Virginians of both parties, with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) calling it "disrespectful" and "certainly not funny," and Gov. Joe Manchin (D) saying, "I truly cannot believe that any vice president of the United States . . . would make such a derogatory statement about my state, or any state for that matter."
Cheney quickly moved to defuse the matter, with spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride telling the Associated Press: "On reflection, he concluded that it was an inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made. The vice president apologizes to the people of West Virginia for the inappropriate remark."
The comment came during a question-and-answer session after the annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Awards, and was prompted by a question about his distant kinship with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
The vice president also criticized a proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax, saying that it would provide "minimal" relief to American consumers while avoiding the "main issue" of oil supply and demand, and arguing that the United States needs to produce more oil.
The luncheon honored two journalists for their Washington Post series last year: military historian Rick Atkinson for "Left of Boom," an account of the Pentagon's battle to defend against roadside bombs, and former White House correspondent Peter Baker for "The Imperiled Presidency," an examination of the Bush White House heading into its final year.