News Columns & Blogs

Sebelius seizes teachable moment

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was attending White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' briefing Thursday when a very loud sneeze caught her attention.

She was there to talk about medical malpractice, but it suddenly became a teachable moment on sanitary practice.

If only her new pal, Elmo, the deputy HHS secretary for swine flu education, was around.

At a time when hand sanitizers are more ubiquitous than cups of Starbucks, America's top health official – don't call her a czar – was aghast when she looked in the direction of the sneezer.

It was NBC correspondent Chuck Todd, who – yuck – sneezed into his hand.

SEBELIUS: Bless you.


GIBBS: I mean…

SEBELIUS: I mean, what is that about?



GIBBS: I want to point out — I want to point out, Margaret (McClatchy White House Correspondent Margaret Talev) sneezed a few minutes ago very correctly, into the sleeve. I mean, it would be one thing if it was…

SEBELIUS: I don’t know. Who’s got some Purell? Give that to Mr. Todd right away, a little – a little hand sanitizer...Good. Good. We’ll have Elmo give Chuck a special briefing. We’ll get Elmo over.


SEBELIUS: Elmo knows how to sneeze.


GIBBS: We will seek to – to try to bring Chuck up to the level of a 4-, or 5-, or a 6-year-old.