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Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday joked about the inappropriate touching accusations made against him by a number of women just days after pledging that he would be "more mindful and respectful" of people's space.
The longtime politician's two jokes during a speech at a conference in Washington could shed some early light on how the likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidate plans to rebuff accusations that he made inappropriate physical contact.
One joke came shortly after Biden invited four children on stage. Biden put his arm around a young boy and told the crowd, "by the way, he gave me permission to touch him."
The comment provoked laughter from the kids onstage, as well as those in the audience. He was speaking at a conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
It was the second joke Biden made about the accusations during the speech. Earlier, Biden joked that Lonnie Stephenson, IBEW's international president, gave Biden permission to hug him.
The jokes earned pushback from at least one of the women who have accused Biden in recent weeks of inappropriate physical contact.
They show that Biden "hasn't reflected at all on how his inappropriate and unsolicited touching made women feel uncomfortable," said Lucy Flores, who in an article in The Cut published last month accused Biden of kissing her on the back of her head during a rally in 2014, while she was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada.
"To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have," Flores said.
Flores is one of several women who have come out with complaints about Biden's behavior, which they said made them uncomfortable. The accusations have threatened to upend Biden's potential shot at the Democratic nomination.
After the speech, Biden told reporters he was sorry that "I didn't understand," but that he was "not sorry for any of my intentions."
"I am not sorry for anything I have ever done. I have not been disrespectful to any man or woman," Biden said.
On Wednesday, Biden posted a video on Twitter in which he sought to head off the political impact of the allegations.
"Social norms have begun to change, they've shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset," Biden said in the video. "And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying, I understand."
President Donald Trump, who has been caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, on Thursday responded by posting to Twitter a meme that mocked Biden's pledge.