The vice president is a hands-on officiant at Defense Secretary Ash Carter's swearing-in

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
February 18, 2015 02:10 PM
Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Joe Biden has always been what Jerry Seinfeld would call a “close-talker.”

But did he get a little too close at the swearing-in of new Defense Secretary Ash Carter?

A still photo of Biden briefly squeezing the shoulders of Carter’s wife, Stephanie, and whispering in her ear as Carter spoke at the small ceremony in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room on Tuesday, went viral overnight with Twitter users and Facebookers and bloggers alike.

NPR called the fleeting interaction “a bit too close,” and likened it to the impromptu shoulder massage then-President George W. Bush gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2006.

And New York magazine went even further, calling the VP’s touchy style “creepy.”

A former White House insider who is close to Biden tells PEOPLE: “I don’t understand why this is getting so much attention. The Vice President is always friendly and outgoing; that is part of his charm. Haven’t people seen the Vice President swear in Senators and interact with their family members before?”

This White House reporter’s vote – from personal experience – falls in the ‘Uncle-Joe’-being-friendly column.

What do you think?