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Former Vice President Joe Biden, accused of touching seven women inappropriately, took the opportunity on Friday to make two jokes about touching.
As Biden took the stage at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference in Washington, D.C., he embraced the group’s president, Lonnie Stephenson. Right before starting his speech, Biden then told the crowd, “I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.”
The crowd laughed. Attendees were primarily men, the New York Times reported.
“I don’t know, man,” Biden added, according to the Huffington Post. He then went on with his speech, his first since the controversy started.
Several minutes later, Biden made another joke about the accusations, when he welcomed a male child onstage, according to the Times. He hugged the boy and said, “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.”
Once again, the crowd laughed.
None of the seven women who’ve said Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable have accused the likely 2020 presidential candidate of sexual harassment or assault. Many women who’ve know Biden or have worked with him have also come out to defend the Democrat’s conduct with women and highlighted his commitment to championing their rights, such as through his role as an original architect of the Violence Against Women Act.
But Biden, who is 76, has had to deal with suggestions that his habit of intimately touching strangers and supporters might sink a run for the White House. On Wednesday, Biden posted a video to Twitter where he stressed that he heard the concerns about inappropriate touching and vowed to do better.
He did not explicitly apologize.
Cover: Former Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie Stephenson as he arrives to speak at IBEW's construction and maintenance conference in Washington, Friday, April 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)