Vice President Dick Cheney apologized Monday for what his spokeswoman called "an inappropriate attempt at humor" that implied that inbreeding is common among West Virginians, a remark that elicited outrage from the state's senior senator.
Asked during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club about the fact that a search of his family tree found he is a distant relative of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner, Cheney said the two politicians were unlikely to hold a family reunion.
He said that the Cheney line on his father's side of the family dates to 1630's, and a Cheney family line on his mother's side dates to the 1650's.
"So, I had Cheneys on both sides of the family — and we don't even live in West Virginia," Cheney cracked. After pausing for laughter from the crowd, Cheney added, "You can say those things when you're not running for re-election."
Afterward, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd lashed out at Cheney for the "insult to all Americans." In a written statement, Byrd declared that Cheney showed "contempt and astounding ignorance toward his own countrymen" with the comments.
Byrd has now been admitted to the hospital with a high fever--coincidence? Probably not.
Byrd, 90, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, was taken to a Virginia hospital in the early evening and will stay there overnight after feeling ill throughout the day, spokesman Jesse Jacobs said. Jacobs said Byrd had felt “lethargic and sluggish” throughout the day, but attended the lone Senate vote of the day, at 5:30 p.m. He was one of 14 senators to vote against debating a climate change bill.
Shortly thereafter, Byrd went home and reported the same symptoms to his caregiver. The caregiver discovered that Byrd had a fever and consulted the senator’s physician, who recommended a hospital visit, Jacobs said.
Byrd, who was elected in 1949 and now assumes the powerful Appropriations Committee chairmanship, was hospitalized briefly in February after a fall at his home and again in March for adverse reactions to medication.