Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden tested the notion Friday that humor is the best remedy for any situation when he joked about the recent blowback he has received over allegations of inappropriate touching.
Speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers construction and maintenance conference in Washington, Mr. Biden opened his remarks by assuring the audience that the hug he gave IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson before taking the stage was consensual.
“You know as the say in parts of my old neighborhood in Scranton, you guys brung me to the dance, you really did, and I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie,” Mr. Biden said with a grin, sparking laughter and applause from the crowd.
Mr. Biden returned to the joke after he invited a group of kids on stage and wrapped his arm around one of the youngster’s shoulders and neck.
“By the way, he gave me permission to touch him,” Mr. Biden said, sparking another round of laughter.
Widely believed to be in the final stages of launching a presidential bid, Mr. Biden’s political future has been thrown into doubt by seven women who have come forward to accuse him of getting too handsy and too close for their comfort over the years.
Many of Mr. Biden’s former colleagues and staffers, as well as television personalities and celebrities, have rushed to his defense, and have applauded his promise to be more mindful of invading people’s personal space.
Some activists, though, say Mr. Biden’s time has come and gone. They say they don’t want to relitigate his past behavior or record,and say Democrats must turn to a new generation of leaders.