2020 Election

‘I Don’t Think It’s Disqualifying.’ Pelosi Hedges Criticism of Joe Biden

2 minute read

Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized former Vice President Joe Biden over his response to women’s complaints about his physical contact with them, but said the issue is not disqualifying.

In recent days, two women have come forward to say that they were not comfortable with the way Biden touched them during interactions, leading Biden to say that he had offered “countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” during his career but “not once ― never ― did I believe I acted inappropriately.”

But Pelosi said Biden is missing the point, although she did not think that means he should not be in politics.

“I don’t think it’s disqualifying because I because I don’t think it’s disqualifying what your intention is,” she said in an interview with Politico Playbook. She added: “But I think it’s important for the Vice President and others to understand is that it isn’t what you intended, it’s how it was received.”

She suggested that Biden needs to keep physical contact at arm’s length and that, “he has to understand in the world we’re in now that people’s space is important to them.”

Biden, who served more than three decades as a senator from Delaware before joining Barack Obama’s presidential ticket in 2008, has long been considered a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, although he has yet to officially enter the race.

Pelosi, while saying that her grandchildren love Biden, cautioned him to focus carefully on the tone of his apology. “To say ‘I’m sorry that you were offended’ is not an apology,” she said Tuesday. “It should be ‘I’m sorry that I invaded your space,’ because people have different perceptions.”

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Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com