Live

Watch CBSN Live

Nancy Pelosi says claims about inappropriate behavior by Biden aren't "disqualifying" for 2020

Pelosi says Biden behavior not "disqualifying"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is defending former Vice President Joe Biden amid claims by two women that he inappropriately touched them, saying such claims are not "disqualifying" for a potential 2020 presidential bid. She stressed, however, that even for the top politicians, perceptions outweigh intentions. 

"I don't think it's disqualifying...I think that it's important for the vice president and others to understand is it isn't what you intended, it's how it was received," Pelosi said at Politico's Playbook breakfast on Tuesday. 

She added of Biden's response to the criticism over his behavior toward women, "To say 'I'm sorry that you were offended' is not an apology." Instead she said it should be: "'I'm sorry that I invaded your space,' because people have different perceptions of appropriate communication." 

Pelosi said and her family have known Biden for a long time, saying even her grandchildren love him. She defended his approach to women as simply being "affectionate."

"He's an affectionate person to children to senior citizens to everyone. That's just the way he is," said Pelosi. She conceded, however, that Biden "has to understand in the world that were in now, that people'[s] space is important to them and what's important is how they receive -- not necessarily how you intended it."

Pelosi offered her own suggestion on how to handle uncomfortable situations: "I'm a straight-armer," said Pelosi, extending out her arm for a handshake. "Just pretend you have a cold, and I have a cold." She suggested Biden should "join the straight arm club" along with her.  

The speaker's comments come as a second woman has stepped forward with claims of an uncomfortable encounter with Biden, claiming the former vice president reached for her face and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Connecticut. This follows a claim by former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who said that at a 2014 campaign event, Biden approached her from behind, smelled her hair and kissed her head.