Jokes Joe Biden made Friday about whether he had permission to hug someone had some questioning whether he’s really taking the issue of violating people’s space seriously.
As expectations continue to rise that the former vice president will make a run for president in 2020, there is concern that the 76-year-old may be out of touch with today’s norms, especially as it relates to gender and respect for women’s personal space. As political analyst Gloria Borger said on CNN:
Others, such as #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, took a harder stance:
As Biden was introduced before speaking at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference in Washington, D.C., he hugged the union’s president, Lonnie R. Stephenson, then joked, “I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie,” the New York Times reports. The audience, which was mostly white and male, burst into laughter.
Later, during his speech, he invited a group of children up onstage, hugged one of the boys, then joked, “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” prompting more laughter from the crowd, according to the Washington Post.
The joking struck a nerve, especially among women who have come forward recently to say that Biden violated their space in past encounters and that it made them uncomfortable.
“Biden’s consent joke is a clear indication Biden doesn’t get it and doesn’t take the voice of the women who have come forward seriously,” one of those women, Amy Lappos, told the Post. “A man who jokes about consent isn’t on the right side of women’s issues. This was also a joke about consent from a child, which adds a new level of creepy and gross.”
In speaking with reporters following the speech, Biden avoided making a direct apology about his past actions, but said he understood that he needed to change his touchy-feely ways.
“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more,” Biden said regarding his hugs and kisses to women over the years, the Times reports. “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I’ve never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.”