Two more women have now come forward accusing Joe Biden, the former vice president and presumed 2020 presidential candidate, of inappropriately touching them. This now makes four accusers who have come forward. One of the new women was only 19 years old at the time of the incident.
Caitlyn Caruso, a former college student and sexual assault survivor, said Mr. Biden rested his hand on her thigh — even as she squirmed in her seat to show her discomfort — and hugged her “just a little bit too long” at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was 19.
Ms. Caruso, now 22, said she chalked up the encounter at the time to how men act, and did not say anything publicly. But she said it was particularly uncomfortable because she had just shared her own story of sexual assault and had expected Mr. Biden — an architect of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act — to understand the importance of physical boundaries.
“It doesn’t even really cross your mind that such a person would dare perpetuate harm like that,” she said. “These are supposed to be people you can trust.”
The other new accuser’s story is similar to the rest.
D.J. Hill, 59, a writer who recalled meeting Mr. Biden in 2012 at a fund-raising event in Minneapolis, said that when she and her husband, Robert, stepped up to take their photograph with the vice president, he put his hand on her shoulder and then started dropping it down her back, which made her “very uncomfortable.”
Her husband, seeing the movement, put his hand on Mr. Biden’s shoulder and interrupted with a joke. Ms. Hill did not say anything at the time and acknowledged that she does not know what Mr. Biden’s intention was or whether he was aware of her discomfit.
“Only he knows his intent,” she said. But norms are changing now, she said, and “if something makes you feel uncomfortable, you have to feel able to say it.”
Biden’s team has started to go on offense, accusing the campaigns of other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates of being behind these women coming forward—particularly the Bernie Sanders campaign. Lucy Flores, the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada, who was the first woman to come forward in the past week, had previously supported Sanders in 2016, and also attended a Beto O’Rourke rally. Flores has yet to endorse any candidate for 2020. The accusations prompted a strong denial from Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir, who told The Daily Beast, “Neither the Bernie Sanders campaign nor anyone involved in it, planted, planned, persuaded, cajoled or otherwise urged Lucy Flores or anyone else to tell their story. Full stop, period, end of sentence. I don’t want to hear it. We didn’t play a role.”
While some Democrats have defended Biden, his primary opponents clearly see a potential silver bullet to end his campaign before it even starts. With these two new women coming forward, it is hard to see how Biden’s campaign ever gets out from the shadow of these accusations. I said the other day that new accusations were likely coming, and still more are sure to come. There is clearly concern amongst Biden’s advisers and those close to him that it will be extremely difficult to move past these allegations. Biden is already in a tight spot. If he chooses not to run, it may stop more women from coming forward, but with his strong polling amongst Democrats, his decision not to enter the race will now be seen as a reaction to these allegations. Similarly, if he jumps in the race and doesn’t win his party’s nomination, the allegations will be seen as the reason for his failure, and forever taint his legacy.
Even before these allegations started piling up, many on the left felt Joe Biden no longer reflects the “progressive” base of the party and shouldn’t have even considered jumping in the race. The base of the party wants a woman or a minority, or even a fresh face. Biden, an old white man, just doesn’t mix with his party’s reliance on identity politics as a wedge issue. Before the Flores allegation, Biden’s age, race, and gender were his biggest obstacles to overcome. Last week he even took to criticizing “white man’s culture” and expressed regret for his role in the Anita Hill hearings nearly thirty years ago. He’s now spent the past week apologizing for being white and creepy… I don’t know how he survives this.
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