In his first public appearance since he began facing complaints from women about being touched by him, Joe Biden made joking references to the issue that drew laughter from a mostly male crowd. He also delivered a qualified apology, the New York Times reports. "I'm sorry I didn’t understand more," he told reporters after his speech. "I'm not sorry for any of my intentions. I'm not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I've never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman." As he stepped onstage to speak at an electricians conference, he hugged the union's male president. "I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie," he told the crowd. During the speech, he asked children in the crowd to join him onstage. After putting his arm around a boy, he said, "By the way, he gave me permission to touch him."
Although Biden hasn't announced that he's running for president, he leads other Democrats in most polls. Statements from women who said his past hugs, kisses, and touching were unwelcome have thrown him for a loop, however, and he posted a video response on Wednesday. On Friday, President Trump told reporters that he doesn't fear a Biden candidacy. "I don't see Joe Biden as a threat," Trump said, per Politico. "I think he is only a threat to himself." He suggested Biden's long record in the Senate and as Barack Obama's vice president would have him on the defensive. Biden's speech to the union, however, emphasized economic inequality and partisanship, per the Times. "This country was not built by Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers," Biden said. "It was built by the great American middle class." (Nancy Pelosi suggests Biden shake hands instead.)