The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Join the straight-arm club’: Pelosi suggests a different way for Biden to interact with women

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks at a news conference last week. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday offered some advice to former vice president Joe Biden, who has been under heightened scrutiny for his intimate physical style with women: “Join the straight-arm club” and shake hands with people as if you both have colds.

Pelosi said she doesn’t consider Biden’s behavior “disqualifying” for the presidency but said “he has to understand that in the world we’re in now, people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it, and not necessarily how you intended it.”

Her comments came during an interview with Politico reporters in front of a live audience. Pressed about accusations from women who have said Biden made them uncomfortable, Pelosi shared that she has a very different style of interacting with people.

“I’m a member of the straight-arm club,” she said, extending a stiff arm out to demonstrate. “I just pretend you have a cold, and I have a cold.”

The misconduct allegation against former vice president Joe Biden is the latest in Democrats' complicated reckoning with the Me Too movement in the Trump era. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

She suggested Biden do the same.

Pelosi said she has known Biden for decades and shared that her grandchildren “love Joe Biden,” adding: “He’s a very affectionate person.”

Second woman alleges that Joe Biden touched her inappropriately

Biden, who has appeared to be on the cusp of announcing a bid for Democratic presidential nomination, is facing questions about whether a self-described “tactile politician” is well-suited for the White House in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

In recent days, two women have come forward to say they were uncomfortable and offended by episodes in which the then-vice president touched them without their consent.

Late last week, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state legislator, wrote an essay in which she said that Biden acted inappropriately toward her at a 2014 campaign event.

In a statement Monday, a former congressional aide, Amy Lappos, said she was speaking out about her own experience at a 2009 fundraiser because she was disappointed in the “ridiculously dismissive” way that Democrats, including Biden, have responded to Flores’s account.

Biden has said he never acted inappropriately but will “listen respectfully” to women who have been offended.

On Tuesday, Pelosi also said it’s important in any communication to know how your words or actions are being perceived.

“I think it’s important for the vice president and others to understand, it isn’t what you intended, it’s how it was received,” Pelosi said. “It’s how it is received, so to say, ‘I’m sorry that you were offended’ is not an apology. ‘I’m sorry I invaded your space,’ but not ‘I’m sorry you were offended.’”

Read more at PowerPost