‘Join the straight arm club’: Pelosi suggests a new way for Biden to act around women

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

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) 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.”

Her comments came during an interview with Politico reporters in front of a live audience. Pressed about accusations from women who’ve said Biden made them feel 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. She added that she pretends both parties have colds and 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.”


Biden defends behavior with women, says he never believed he acted inappropriately »

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

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’ account.

Joe Biden inches closer to launching a 2020 presidential bid »

Biden has said he believed 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.

“It isn’t what you intended, it’s how it was received,” she said. “It’s how it is received, so to say I’m sorry that you were offended is not an apology.”

John Wagner writes for the Washington Post.