WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney apologized for saying Monday that he has “Cheneys on both sides” of his family tree – on his father’s and mother’s sides, going back to the 1600s – and adding, “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 re-election.”
The remark drew swift denunciations from West Virginians of both parties, with Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito calling it “disrespectful” and “certainly not funny,” and Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd saying that Cheney had displayed “contempt and astounding ignorance toward his own countrymen.”
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.
The vice president made it clear he did not want to talk about a new tell-all book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, saying he has not read the book and does not plan to “anytime soon.” He staunchly defended President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, disputing McClellan’s conclusion that “the Iraq war was not necessary” and asserting that the invasion came after careful deliberation.