Biden apologizes to Obama on timing of remarks

Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking to students and educators about student loans, Thursday, May 10, 2012, during a White House Briefing on College Affordability in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden apologized to President Barack Obama for making remarks that prompted the president to disclose his support for same-sex marriage before he planned to, according to an administration official.

Biden delivered the apology to the president Wednesday morning, before Obama gave an interview to ABC News in which he said he has had a change of heart and now supports legal gay marriage, the official said.

Biden’s remarks in a Sunday broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage forced the president to speed up his timetable for revealing his position, administration officials said.

“The president has been the leader on this issue from Day One and the vice president never intended to distract from that,” Kendra Barkoff, Biden’s press secretary, said in an email. The New York Times reported the apology earlier.

In the ABC interview in which he revealed his change in stance, Obama said Biden “probably got out a little bit over his skis” in making his remarks “out of a generosity of spirit.”

While Obama said he would have preferred to announce his stance “in my own way, in my own terms,” there were no hard feelings. “All’s well that ends well,” Obama said.

Administration officials who briefed reporters on the president’s decision to make public his support for same-sex marriage said Obama had changed his stance this year.

The president and about a half-dozen aides still were deliberating the time and place for the announcement when Biden made his remarks on “Meet the Press.”

The president’s advisers knew that Biden, though speaking on his own, would effectively be voicing a new policy when the interview aired, according to the officials.

Gay rights advocates stepped up pressure on the White House for Obama to take a stand in favor of same-sex marriage following broadcast of Biden’s statement.

While Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said on May 7 that he didn’t have any update on the president’s previous declaration that his view was “evolving,” other members of Obama’s team were working on ways to present the issue.

Biden has previously stepped on the administration’s message with public statements.

At a retreat for Democratic House members in February 2009, Biden told his audience about an Oval Office conversation on reviving the economy, saying, “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty ... there’s still a 30 percent chance we’re going to get it wrong.”

A week later, Obama was asked about it at a news conference.

“You know, I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly,” Obama said to laughter. He said Biden “may have been suggesting” that “given the magnitude of the challenges that we have, any single thing that we do is going to be part of the solution, not all of the solution.”