Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first public appearance on Friday since allegations from several women that he touched them inappropriately and took the opportunity to crack jokes about hugging and touching.
First he hugged the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers, Lonnie Stephenson, and joked: “I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie.”
The crowd roared with laughter.
He then turned to several children who were on the stage, and put his arm around a boy of about 8.
“By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” he told the crowd.
And he got another laugh.
“It was an ugly moment,” writes Washington Post opinion writer Amber Philips. “Instead of treating the allegations seriously, as he promised he would, Biden made light of them. He compared these women feeling ‘shame’ and being ’embarrassed’ when he kissed the back of their head or pressed his forehead against theirs to a much more benign hand on the shoulder of a man, in full view of the public. The message Biden seemed to broadcast: These women are making a big deal out of nothing.”
After the speech, Biden told the media: “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything I have ever done. I’ve never been disrespectful intentionally, to a man or a woman.”
It’s a bad sign, says Philips, that Biden isn’t really interested in changing.
“Biden seems to think he’s the best person for the job because he is who he is. He has no intention of changing that. That should make Biden supporters worried about his ability to navigate an even trickier political landscape in 2020.”
Many people on Twitter had a similar take, including the first accuser, Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores, who said she was in shock as she felt Biden come up to her from behind at a campaign event, “inhale” her hair and plant a big kiss on the top of her head.
It’s clear @JoeBiden hasn’t reflected at all on how his inappropriate and unsolicited touching made women feel uncomfortable. To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have.
— Lucy Flores (@LucyFlores) April 5, 2019
“What is he thinking?” the Chicks on the Right captioned a photo from Friday of Biden with his arm around the young boy.
What is he thinking? https://t.co/w2sVsPcgDc
— Chicks On The Right (@chicksonright) April 5, 2019
Even Gloria Borger of CNN, who’d defended Al Franken after he was accused of groping women repeatedly, was not happy with Biden.
"The fact that he joked about it today, is a problem."@GloriaBorger responds to Joe Biden's quip on physical contact during his speech in Washington, D.C.
— CNN (@CNN) April 5, 2019
Meanwhile, Alicia Garza of the Black Futures Lab wondered if we can all really go forward and accept Biden’s “non-apology ‘apology'” video released on Wednesday given what Biden said just two days later.
Sooooo…we just gon keep saying that the non-apology “apology” from Biden was genuine when he made no less than three jokes about consent on the non campaign campaign trail today? I mean if it wasn’t so painful it might be funny.
— Alicia Garza (@aliciagarza) April 5, 2019
The message that Joe Biden’s comments sent women and girls today was that if you set boundaries and speak out when you’re uncomfortable, men will turn it into a joke. https://t.co/pYb773IZi4
— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) April 5, 2019
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