CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Vice President Dick Cheney Monday made a familiar joke about people who live in West Virginia while speaking to the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
Cheney was explaining how he is a distant cousin to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"We'd always known about the Cheney family line on my father's side of the family, back to Massachusetts in the 1630s. My grandmother was named Tyler but it turned out she was descended from a Richard Cheney, same last name, who landed in Maryland in the 1650s," Vice President Cheney said. "So I had Cheneys on both sides of the family -- and we don't even live in West Virginia. You can say those things when you're not running for re-election."
Those in attendance at the National Press Club and Mr. Cheney laughed at the joke.
The issue has been a sensitive one for many who live in West Virginia.
Earlier this year, Governor Joe Manchin criticized a casting call for a Hollywood movie set in West Virginia that looked for children with other worldly features and encouraged regular looking children to not apply.
Years ago, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise publicly admonished Abercrombie & Fitch for making shirts that said "It's all Relative in West Virginia" and West Virginia : "No Lifeguard at the Gene Pool."
WSAZ contacted Vice President Cheney's office via e-mail and requested an interview. Lea Anne McBride, responded to the email with an apology.
"The Vice President's offhand comment was not meant to hurt anyone. 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," said McBride.
STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR JOE MANCHIN (D-WV):
"I truly cannot believe that any vice president of the United States, regardless of their political affiliation, would make such a derogatory statement about my state or any state for that matter.
"West Virginia is home to some of the most patriotic people in the nation and our sons and daughters have answered the call to duty every time a president has needed their service. They deserve better from the vice president, and so I would simply ask for his apology."
STATEMENT FROM SENATOR ROBERT BYRD (D-WV):
"That a man who has ascended to the seat of Vice President of the United States would openly display such contempt and astounding ignorance toward his own countrymen is an insult to all Americans. Now that he or the Administration he represents no longer needs their vote, Mr. Cheney apparently feels that he is now free to mock and belittle the people of West Virginia. With his trademark arrogance, the Vice President even added 'You can say those things when you’re not running for re-election.'"
"This pitiful comment is not entirely surprising when you consider the source. Vice President Cheney’s words reflect the attitude of an administration and a party that says what they must to get elected and then turns their backs on those they promised to represent."
STATEMENT FROM REP. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV):
"This is exactly the type of stereotyping that we don’t need from our elected officials. It’s disrespectful, and it’s certainly not funny. The Vice President should know better than to make a remark like this one. We all work hard to further West Virginia’s good name, only to have comments like this tarnish it. As a proud state, I can say we are disappointed."