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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Joe Biden's sometimes too-affectionate politicking style is not disqualifying for a presidential bid, but she has some advice for the former vice president and potential candidate: "Join the straight-arm club."
In other words, keep your handshakes at arms' length and don't be touchy-feely.
Pelosi told a breakfast-hour crowd at a Politico event in Washington that Biden "has to understand that in the world we are in now, people's space is important to them."
The California Democrat also suggested that Biden's apologies could have been better, telling the group that "what's important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it."
Biden has been accused of being overly familiar in his dealings with women — rubbing women's shoulders in public, kissing the back of one woman's head, and rubbing noses with another — but not of assault or harassment.
Pelosi's remarks come as aides to Biden have stepped up their defense of the former vice president amid scrutiny over his past behavior toward women.
Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted "right wing trolls" for conflating images of Biden embracing colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching.
On Monday, a second woman, Amy Lappos, said Biden had acted inappropriately, touching her face with both hands and rubbing noses with her in 2009. NBC News has not spoken to Lappos to ask for corroboration of what she says happened in 2009.
The allegation by Amy Lappos, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, followed a magazine essay by former Nevada politician Lucy Flores, who says Biden kissed her on the back of the head in 2014.
Both Flores and Lappos described Biden's behavior as inappropriate but not overtly sexual.
The developments have underscored the challenge facing Biden should he run for president in 2020. On Sunday, Biden addressed Flores' allegation, saying in a statement that "not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately."
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden said. "And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear."
"But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention," he said. "And I will. I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own. And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won."