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'I Don't Know, Man': Joe Biden Cracks #MeToo Joke to Room Full of Union Workers

Former vice president, said head women's advocacy group, "needs to own and learn from his mistakes—and that includes listening to the people who say that he harmed them and apologizing to them directly—not making jokes about it a day later."

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to a gathering of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on Friday. (Photo: Screenshot/C-SPAN)

Less than two days after issuing an acknowledgement of the controversy over his inappropriate behavior towards women over the years and saying he would do better in the future, likely Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday took a less conciliatory approach to the issue—and stirred fresh anger—when he took the stage to speak to a ballroom full of trade union members.

"Whatever gains he may have made with people who were giving him the benefit of the doubt yesterday, he lost today." —Shauna Thomas, UltraViolet

"I just want you to know," Biden told the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and referring to the union's (male) president who had just introduced him, "I had permission to hug Lonnie [Stephenson]."

While the crowd responded with laughter and applause, Biden also laughed and shook his head, "I don't know, man."

Watch:

Subsequently, Biden also brought some children onto the stage and then repeated his effort to make light of his propensity to touch and invade people's private space.

In Biden's video statement on Thursday, he addressed the concerns of those women who have recently come forward to say they were uncomfortable and felt violated by the way the longtime politician had interacted with them by saying he would be "more mindful" going forward.

"Social norms... have shifted," Biden said in the video, "and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying."

But even before his comments at the IBEW conference on Friday, as the Washington Post reported Thursday, critics—including women who have come have forward about their own experiences—said Biden had yet to show he really "gets it."

"It's one thing to say it," said D.J. Hill, who has spoken out about an interaction she had with Biden in 2012. "It's another thing to show actions that you're moving toward what you say this self-realization is about."

Speaking to reporters after the union event, Biden said he doesn't need to apologize to women because he didn't have bad intentions:

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, said Biden's behavior on Friday proves he's not listening or understanding what women are saying.

"Joe Biden needs to own and learn from his mistakes—and that includes listening to the people who say that he harmed them and apologizing to them directly—not making jokes about it a day later," Thomas said. "What he did was  shameful, and not how a so-called 'champion for women' should act – or treat people. Touching people without their consent, and making jokes about it, only adds insult to injury and sends a crystal clear signal to women, and the American people at large – that he just doesn't respect them."

She added, "Whatever gains he may have made with people who were giving him the benefit of the doubt yesterday, he lost today."

And Lucy Flores, the Nevada Democrat who first came forward last weekend by writing a column in The Cut that detailed how an "awkward kiss" by Biden changed how she felt about him, tweeted:

While a new Hill/HarrisX poll out Friday found that a majority of registered voters say the allegations that Biden "inappropriately touched several women should not disqualify him from seeking the White House in 2020," it was difficult for many to watch the Democrat who has made it abundantly clear he is close to running for president to remain so cavalier and unapologetic towards the issue.

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