Former vice president Joe Biden made light of the recent string of accusations that he had inappropriately touched women during his career on Friday, sarcastically warning a crowd of union workers that he had received “permission” to hug the group’s union leader, Lonnie Stephenson, as he greeted him onstage.
“I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie,” Biden said at the beginning of his remarks before the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington, DC. The line prompted laughter from the group, which was composed mostly of men.
At start of his address to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Joe Biden jokes, “I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.” https://t.co/Hvgxjgk9fw pic.twitter.com/19rJgEA1L5
— ABC News (@ABC) April 5, 2019
Later in his address, Biden again cracked a joke about consent, this time after embracing a young boy, who was among several children who had gathered on stage for the event. “By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” Biden said.
Former VP Biden invites children on stage during his speech at a construction conference, puts his arm around a boy, and makes light of recent news related to his physical interactions with people: "By the way, he gave me permission to touch him." pic.twitter.com/XN9YmaaS1b
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 5, 2019
While the jokes may have landed with those present in the room, on social media, Biden’s remarks struck a much more cringeworthy note, with many pointing to the comments as evidence that the former vice president and likely 2020 Democratic contender had not registered the seriousness of the allegations against him.
This honestly really pisses me off https://t.co/9PSYZFM73N
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) April 5, 2019
The event on Friday marked Biden’s first public appearance since the initial allegation of inappropriate touching from Lucy Flores, a Nevada Democrat, was published last week. As more women came forward to reveal similar encounters, Biden struggled to respond to the mounting controversy in a way that satisfied progressives. President Donald Trump has since seized on the allegations, mocking Biden in public remarks and later in a doctored video clip posted to Twitter.
WELCOME BACK JOE! pic.twitter.com/b2NbBSX3sx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2019
This post has been updated.