US vice president-elect Joe Biden’s wife said on Monday that he had his pick of being Barack Obama’s running mate or the secretary of state nomination that eventually went to Hillary Rodham Clinton, a slip that Biden immediately tried to shush.
Jill Biden’s comment came during an appearance with her husband on The Oprah Winfrey Show, taped at Washington’s Kennedy Center on the eve of the inauguration.
“Joe had the choice to be secretary of state or vice president,” she said.
Her husband turned to his wife with his finger to his lips and a “Shhhh!” that sent the audience into laughter.
“OK, he did,” Jill Biden said in her defense.
The vice president-elect blushed, grimaced and gave his wife a hug, while the audience continued to erupt in laughter.
“That’s right,” he finally said to his wife. “Go ahead.”
Jill Biden said she told him vice president would be better for the family.
“If you’re secretary of state, you’ll be away, we’ll never see you, you know,” she said. “I’ll see you at a state dinner once in a while.”
After the exchange aired on television three hours later, Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander denied Jill Biden’s account in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
“To be clear, president-elect Obama offered vice president-elect Biden one job only — to be his running mate,” the statement said. “And the vice president-elect was thrilled to accept the offer.”
While the statement denies that Obama ever offered Biden the secretary of state job, it doesn’t rule out that the two discussed the possibility. Obama’s transition office did not respond to questions about their private discussions.
Clinton’s spokesman declined to comment about the suggestion that she was the second choice.
Obama made no reference to the comments on Monday night, when he praised the Bidens at a dinner honoring his running mate at Washington’s Union Station. Obama invited the two on stage, where he kissed Jill Biden’s cheek and hugged her husband.
On Winfrey’s program, Joe Biden said he didn’t immediately take the vice presidential offer since he wasn’t sure it was the best place for him to serve. But Biden, who ran against Obama in the Democratic primary race, said he agreed after getting some assurances from Obama about his role.