HE’S BEEN KNOWN TO GO OFF-SCRIPT…. Vice President Biden has a reputation for making remarks he shouldn’t say in public. The reputation is well deserved.

Vice President Joe Biden says he’s advising his own family to avoid “confined places” — to stay off commercial airlines and even subways — because of the new swine flu.

Biden said Thursday if one person sneezes on a confined aircraft, “it goes all the way through the aircraft.” Going beyond official advice from the federal government, Biden said of his family’s personal precautions: “That’s me.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer asked hypothetically about how Biden would advise a member of his family planning to fly to Mexico and back within the next week. The VP, however, offered an expansive answer: “I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now.” He went on to talk about airplanes and subways.

Having the vice president tell a national television audience it’s a bad idea to fly and ride the subway is not only unhelpful, it also goes much further than government recommendations to the public.

The White House quickly arranged for Biden to issue a clarification to the media:

“On the Today Show this morning the Vice President was asked what he would tell a family member who was considering air travel to Mexico this week. The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the Administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the Vice President has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week. As the President said just last night, every American should take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you’re sick; and keep your children home from school if they’re sick.”

Of course, watching the clip, Biden went much further than the “advice the Administration is giving to all Americans.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.