Joe Biden posted a video to Twitter today to respond to the now four allegations of inappropriate contact from women made in the past week. In the video, Biden acknowledges that “social norms are changing” and that he will “be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”
Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it. pic.twitter.com/Ya2mf5ODts
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) April 3, 2019
With this video, Biden references handshakes, hugs, and shoulder grabs, which are common acts by politicians with supporters and colleagues, but seems to ignore that the problem is not his handshakes, or even his hugs, for that matter.
Biden’s first accuser, Lucy Flores, recalled how Biden came up to her from behind, touched her shoulders, leaned in close and “inhaled” her hair. Then he planted “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head. Creepy, not normal.
The second woman to come forward, Amy Lappos, described how Biden “put his hand around [her] neck and pulled [her] in to rub noses with [her].” Lappos thought Biden was going to kiss her on the mouth. Again, that’s creepy, not normal.
The third woman, Caitlyn Caruso, who was a 19-year-old sexual assault survivor at the time of the incident she described, said Biden “rested his hand on her thigh” causing her to squirm in discomfort and that he hugged her “just a little bit too long” at an event on sexual assault.
The fourth woman, D.J. Hill, said Biden put his hand on her shoulder during a photo-op and started lowering it further down her back, making her “very uncomfortable.” Hill’s husband witnessed the act, realizing it was not appropriate and interrupted the gesture.
“I’ll always believe governing — and, quite frankly, life for that matter — is about connecting, about connecting with people,” Biden said in his Twitter video. But, it is very difficult for Biden to lump the aforementioned incidents in with handshakes, hugs, and shoulder grabs. These weren’t mere intrusions of personal space. These women clearly felt that he was acting inappropriately.
It’s true that social norms are changing, but these incidents all occurred before the #MeToo movement. Biden’s inappropriate, touchy-feely behavior has been an “open secret” in Washington for years, and images and video of his creepiness with women and young girls were going viral on the internet even when he was still vice president of the United States. The media may have protected him then because he was Barack Obama’s vice president, but he’s now about to launch a presidential campaign, and his behavior is something the media and his potential 2020 rivals won’t ignore.
I think it’s clear that Biden still intends to jump in the race, but his earlier statements, and even blaming his primary opponents for being behind the accusations, suggest that he’s been trying various ways to change the narrative without much luck. His opponents will probably write off this video as “mansplaining” his creepy behavior without fully owning up to it. Some might even suggest he’s indirectly blaming the women for misinterpreting his actions.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis