Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday tried to walk back jokes he made about consent after his first public appearance since eight women accused him of touching them without their permission.

"It wasn't my intent to make light of anyone's discomfort. I realize my responsibility is to not invade the space of anyone who is uncomfortable in that regard. And I hope it wasn't taken that way," Biden, 76, told reporters after his address at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction and Maintenance Conference at the Washington Hilton in D.C.

"But there was a — I literally think it is incumbent upon me and I think everybody else to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone, it's with their consent regardless of your intention. If you're trying to bring solace, if you're trying to welcome them, and it's my responsibility to do that," the former 36-year senator from Delaware said. "What made me say it, I wasn't joking, the president of the union put his arms around me. That's how it's always been, going on a long time, that's how people react."

Biden reiterated that he felt "badly" about how women had perceived his behavior but that he was "not sorry" regarding his intentions because they were never malicious.

[Related: Pelosi: Biden needs to understand 'it isn't what you intended, it's how it was received']

"I wouldn't be surprised, but I've had hundreds and hundreds of people contact me, who I don't know, and say the exact opposite," he said when asked whether more women may come forward with similar grievances.

Former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores last week accused Biden of smelling her hair and landing an unwanted slow kiss on the back of her neck. Since then, seven other women have made allegations against him of inappropriate contact, ranging from putting his hand on the small of one woman’s back to touching another woman’s thigh.

During Friday's speech, the former vice president twice joked about having permission to hug first Lonnie Stephenson, president of IBEW, and a young boy who was part of a group of children he invited onstage.

But the ongoing controversy does not seem to have hampered the prospect of Biden entering the 2020 White House race, defending his liberal record as "an Obama-Biden Democrat" while arguing that most members of the Democratic Party have not moved further to the political left.

"I'm told by the lawyers that I've got to be careful about what I say so that I don't start a clock ticking and change my status. But I am very close to making a decision to stand before you all relatively soon," he said. "What's the holdup? Putting everything together, man. Putting everything together. Even if I knew for certain that I was going to run for president back at Thanksgiving, my intentions at the beginning, if I was going to run, it would be the last person to announce."