93°F
weather icon Clear

Biden jokes during speech about his affectionate behavior

Updated April 5, 2019 - 9:27 am

WASHINGTON — In his first public appearance since several women said he had behaved physically inappropriately, former Vice President Joe Biden quipped about his tendency to be affectionate.

After he embraced Lonnie Stephenson, the male president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Biden told his audience: “I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.”

The quip on Friday was met with cheers from the largely male audience that represented the sort of blue-collar white workers Biden’s supporters hope he can win back from President Donald Trump. Biden focused his speech on the need to respect manual labor and told the union leaders their work is what allows high-paid Wall Street traders and others to function.

“All you’re looking for is to be treated fairly, with respect, with some dignity,” Biden said. “Because you matter.”

Biden’s publicly affectionate persona, however, has gotten him in trouble as he gears up for a presidential run. Last month, Nevada politician Lucy Flores, said she was uncomfortable when Biden kissed her on the back of the head backstage at a 2014 campaign event. Her account was countered by scores of women — from prominent lawmakers to former Biden staffers — who praised him as a warm, affectionate person and a supportive boss. But several other women have also come forward to recount their own awkward interactions with Biden.

The 76-year-old said in a cellphone video released Wednesday that he understood “social norms have begun to change” and “the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset.”

Biden allies insist the eruption has done little to slow down planning for a 2020 campaign. Barring the unforeseen, he is expected to announce his candidacy, perhaps online, after Easter and immediately embark on a trip to early voting caucus and primary states. Those stops would be followed by a ceremonial kickoff.

Advisers say they are working to build out a robust campaign staff, including operatives in Iowa and South Carolina, states that are seen as key to his path to the nomination. Women are being considered for key roles, including senior strategist and deputy campaign manager, according to advisers, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the planning publicly.

Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, has long been one of his most trusted political confidantes. His daughter, 37-year-old Ashley Biden, who has largely kept a low profile during his political career, may also take on a more prominent role. She has quit her job as a social worker, fueling speculation.

But the past few weeks have laid bare the challenges Biden would face. Some women’s groups have balked at his attempts to apologize for his role overseeing the Senate hearings in which Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

President Donald Trump has joined the criticism, despite his own history with more than a dozen women accusing him of improper sexual acts. Trump has denied those allegations, and on Thursday he posted a doctored version of Biden’s video. In Trump’s version, a Biden avatar approaches Biden from behind and appears to grab his shoulders.

“Yeah, I think I’m a very good messenger and people got a kick out of it,” Trump told reporters Friday.

Reacting in a glimpse of what may lie ahead in the 2020 campaign, Biden tweeted back at Trump, “I see that you are on the job and presidential, as always.”

Biden has also been criticized this spring following reports that he was considering asking 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a 45-year-old African American woman, to be his running mate during the Democratic primaries. Abrams herself brushed back the speculation by saying she thought a woman or a minority would be the Democratic Party nominee in 2020.

Speaking to MSNBC on Thursday, Abrams offered support for Biden and said Democrats shouldn’t “have perfection as a litmus test.” But in a sign of the volatility that could be ahead for the Democratic field, Abrams said she doesn’t expect to decide whether to launch a presidential bid of her own until the fall, just months before primary voting begins.

The rush of attention on Biden’s behavior with women has raised questions about whether his hugs and shoulder squeezes are simply out of a different era or a new front in the MeToo movement that has put a spotlight on the actions of powerful men.

“It feels so much like some of the other MeToo stuff that’s been floating around, that I’m afraid he might get tarred with that brush whether or not it’s really warranted,” said Mike Waggoner, a 70-year-old Democrat from Waterloo, Iowa. “This is such a sensitive area and an important area, I’m afraid it could just take him out.”

As the scrutiny has intensified, Biden has kept the counsel of a small group of advisers who have been with him for years. The team appeared to respond slowly to Flores’ assertions, first releasing a brief statement from a spokesman, then a longer statement from Biden himself about 36 hours later. Four more days passed before the former vice president’s video response was released.

“It is a really difficult period before you announce when you are nonetheless a target,” said David Axelrod, a longtime political adviser to President Barack Obama. “You’re not wholly in a position to respond and yet you have to, and so that may account for the halting way in which this unfolded.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
THE LATEST
Trump keeps up criticism toward federal reserve chairman

The president said of Jerome Powell, “Here’s a guy nobody ever heard of him before and now, I made him and he wants to show how tough he is.”

Infighting prompts NRA’s top lobbyist to resign

The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist resigned Wednesday, the latest development in a dizzying array of in-fighting within the gun lobbying group in recent months that has ensnared even its most ardent loyalists.

Kremlin confirms Trump-Putin ‘sidelines’ meeting at G-20

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of an international summit in Japan, the Kremlin said Wednesday, in talks that come amid bitter differences.

$4.6B border aid measure set for Senate OK; Pelosi seeks talks

The GOP-held Senate is poised to pass a bipartisan $4.6 billion measure to deliver aid to the southern border before the government runs out of money to care for thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children. The vote comes after the chamber moved to swiftly reject a measure passed by House Democrats Tuesday night.

Justice Department sues Omarosa over financial disclosure

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday against former White House staffer and reality TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman, alleging she failed to file a legally required financial disclosure after she was fired from her job in the Trump administration.

Iran won’t budge over US sanctions, says supreme leader

Iran’s supreme leader said Wednesday that Iranians will not budge or change their stand following new U.S. sanctions targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates, the latest in a torrent of sharp verbal responses from Tehran in the wake of the measures.

Battle of sound bites: What to watch in the debates

Sixty seconds for answers, a television audience of millions and, for some candidates, a first chance to introduce themselves to voters.