Will former Vice President Joe Biden be able to overcome the growing number of accusations of inappropriate touching in his expected third presidential run? With the number of women coming forward at a pace of one per day (seven women leveled accusations over the course of seven days), Biden finally attempted to tackle the issue directly on Wednesday, posting a video statement in which he described his handling of women as an attempt to make a “human connection” and pledged to change his behavior amid shifting “social norms.” On Friday, Biden tried another approach: making light of the accusations.
The moment came as Biden was welcomed on stage for an event hosted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). After IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson introduced Biden, the two men briefly embraced on stage. Biden then took to the podium amid strong applause.
“Whoa!” said Biden in response to the warm welcome from the audience. “It’s good to be home! … This may go to my head … Thank you, thank you… You know, as they say in my old neighborhood in Scranton, you guys have ‘brung me to the dance.'”
As the applause died down, Biden quipped, “I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie … I had permission …”
After some hesitation, the audience broke into laughter, applause, and cheers, with Biden adding, “I don’t know, man …”
Biden pulled out the joke again when he introduced a group of children to the stage and put his arm around one of the young boys. “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” the would-be president said, prompting more laughter.
The Hill reports that Biden also had an encounter with reporters Friday in which he said he’s “not sorry” for anything he’s done, though he is sorry for failing to “understand more.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more,” said Biden. “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I have never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman. So that’s not the reputation I’ve had since I was in high school, for god’s sakes … The fact of the matter is I made it clear that if I made anyone feel (uncomfortable), I feel badly about that. It was never my intention. Ever.”
In a video statement Wednesday, Biden addressed the growing scandal involving his “handsy” approach to women. “For the coming month I expect to be talking about a whole lot of issues and I’ll always be direct with you, but today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I’ve made to women and some men that made them uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ve always tried to make a human connection; that’s my responsibility, I think. I shake hands; I hug people; I grab men and women by the shoulders and say, ‘You can do this.’ Whether they’re women, men, young, old, it’s the way I’ve always been; it’s the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.”
Though this is just part of who he is, he said, he’s come to recognize that “social norms” have “shifted,” and he must change along with them. “I’ve never thought of politics as cold and antiseptic,” he said. “I’ve always thought about connecting with people. As I said, shaking hands, hands on the shoulder, a hug, encouragement. Now it’s all about taking selfies together; social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it. I get it; I hear what they’re saying. I understand it and I’ll be much more mindful; that’s my responsibility. My responsibility and I’ll meet it.”