News & Politics

Biden Cracks Jokes About Physical Contact in First Public Appearance Since Controversy

Vice President Joe Biden kisses the head of Jessica Chao Hwang as they pose for a family photo after Biden delivered the Senate oath to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015,(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In the past couple weeks, seven women have come forward to reveal how Joe Biden’s touchy-feeliness at various events in the past ten years had made them uncomfortable, embarrassed, and ashamed. While Biden recently promised to be more respectful of personal space in the future, he didn’t seem to be respectful toward the women who felt wronged by his inappropriate touching, hair sniffing, thigh grabbing, back feeling, nose rubbing, and who-knows-what-else, when he made a couple jokes about his controversial behaviors while addressing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) conference earlier today.

Prior to the speech, he shook the hand of Lonnie Stephenson, the president of the IBEW union, and gave him a brief hug.

“I want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie,” Biden said. The crowd laughed.

Several children were later brought on stage, and he shook hands with them. He even put his arm around one boy. After which he joked, “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.”

While Biden may be hoping that a couple of jokes will make him appear unconcerned over the recent allegations made against him by seven women, what it actually shows is a lack of empathy for the women who felt taken advantage of. In stark contrast to his video from yesterday, here Biden seems to trivialize the hurt and shame these women felt for actions that were not simple handshakes or hugs.

Other Democrats have made jokes in poor taste before. Disgraced Senator Al Franken used to frequently make jokes about sexual misconduct, even child rape, well before the infamous photo of him groping a woman’s breasts while she slept surfaced. Biden’s jokes weren’t nearly as bad, but that’s probably why he thinks he can get away with making them when he’s on the cusp of throwing his hat into the ring for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

To me, his jokes feel no different than a man telling a woman to “get over it” after experiencing sexual harassment or assault — that it was “no big deal,” that “boys will be boys,” and shame on them for taking something the wrong way.

In response to his jokes, CNN’s S.E. Cupp said part of her felt that it’s “too soon to joke about something that you want me to believe you really understand.” I couldn’t agree more. This was a bad move by Biden. If he really wanted us to believe his actions were “misinterpreted” and that he feels bad about that, then joking and making light of these women’s allegations is the wrong way to do it.

Update 4:30 pm EDT: Biden says he’s “I am not sorry for anything that I have ever done.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Friday said that he was not sorry for his habit of stroking and kissing women in professional settings.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything I’ve ever done,” he told reporters in Washington.

Mr. Biden is poised to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential race as the front-runner, but recent complaints by several women about his handsy behavior over the years has cast doubt over his expected run.

With nearly 50 years in public life, Mr. Biden said that his record speaks for itself.

It certainly does.


Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis