House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the allegations of inappropriate touching against former Vice President Joe Biden aren’t “disqualifying” but she encouraged Biden to understand that communication is about how it’s received rather than how it’s intended.
“I don’t think it’s disqualifying,” Pelosi said Tuesday morning at a Politico event in Washington. She added, “I do think this about communication in general beyond this.”
Pelosi said her grandchildren love Biden, and she described him as an affectionate man.
“He was just so lovely to them and paid attention to them,” the California Democrat said at the Playbook event. “But he has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them and what’s important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it.”
On Monday, a second woman came forward in an interview with a Connecticut newspaper to allege that Biden touched her inappropriately. Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant that Biden pulled her in to rub noses with her at a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Connecticut. Biden was vice president at the time. Lappos’ description comes several days after Lucy Flores, a former Democratic politician in Nevada, said she felt Biden touched her in an inappropriate manner. Flores said on Friday that Biden made her feel “uneasy, gross, and confused” in 2014 when, at a campaign rally, she said he kissed her on the back of the head.
In response to Lappos’ allegation, a spokesperson for Biden referred CNN to a statement the former vice president issued over the weekend.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said in that statement first issued Sunday. “And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
Pelosi also urged Biden on Tuesday to join the “straight arm club” with her, implying she keeps people at a physical distance from her. She also criticized the tone of Biden’s response so far.
“To say I’m sorry that you were offended is not an apology,” she said in the Playbook interview. “I’m sorry I invaded your space, but not I’m sorry you were offended. But that’s, what is that? That’s not accepting the fact that people think differently about communication, whether it’s a hand shake, a hug.”
Biden now faces those two accusations as he considers a bid for president in 2020. He is expected to announce his decision as soon as this month.