Jill Biden said President-elect Barack Obama gave Biden the choice of being secretary of state or vice president. The vice president-elect tried to hush his wife as soon as the words came out of her mouth, with a loud "shhh!" that sent the audience into laughter.
The Bidens made a surprise appearance on Winfrey's show, recorded at the Kennedy Center for broadcast later Monday on the eve of the inauguration.
The vice president-elect said he only accepted Obama's offer to be his running mate after talking it over with "Jilly," his pet name for his wife. Mrs. Biden said she told him vice president would be better for the family.
"If you're secretary of state, you'll be away, we'll never see you, you know," she said. "I'll see you at a state dinner once in awhile. But I said, if you are vice president, the entire family, because they worked so hard for the election, they can be involved. They can come to our home. They can go to events, they can be with us all the time. And that's what's important to us."
The vice president-elect didn't address his wife's comments, but said he didn't immediately take the vice presidential offer since he wasn't sure it was the best place for him to serve. But Biden, who ran against Obama in the Democratic primary race, said he agreed after getting some assurances from Obama about his role.
"This is a partnership," Biden said. "He's president of the United States, but as I said to him when he asked me, I said, `Barack, don't ask me unless the reason you're asking me is, you're asking me for my judgment. I get to be the last guy in the room before you make every important decision. You're president. Any decision you make, I will back.' "
"He said he wanted to have a confidant and somebody who wouldn't be a yes man. He's pretty sure about that" last part, Biden said with a laugh.
The secretary of state's job went to another Obama campaign rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.