On Monday, Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski defended former Vice President Joe Biden against Nevada politician Lucy Flores, who claimed Biden’s kiss on the top of her head made her uncomfortable. Brzezinski said Biden was just being “flirtatious” and “affectionate.” Later in the morning, Whoopi Goldberg also defended Biden on The View.
“He is extremely affectionate, extremely flirtatious in a completely safe way,” Brzezinski said. “I am sure that somebody can misconstrue something he’s done, but as much as I can know what’s on anyone’s heart, I don’t think that there’s a bad intent on his part at all. I read the account and I was like, yeah that’s Joe Biden, but never thought for a second that he meant anything from it except to be nice, to be kind.”
Brzezinski referenced a Medium article defending Biden, written by Ash Carter’s wife Stephanie Carter, who experienced Biden’s hands-on “affection” firsthand. Carter argued that Biden’s physical touch and kisses did not constitute a “#MeToo moment” involving sexual harassment, even though he held a position of power.
The Morning Joe co-host posed a question to Democrats. “What exactly is the #MeToo line you want to draw? Because you will live and die on that line,” she said.
Later on Monday morning, Whoopi Goldberg made similar remarks on The View.
“You know, listen, in the old days — some folks of a certain age would say he’s a little overly familiar,” Goldberg said. “Joe is a hands-on kind of guy. I’ve never heard anyone — and she says she felt violated. I have to take her at her word. But it would have been nice if she turned to him and said, ‘You know what, Joe, I don’t really like this. Mr. Vice President, I’m not comfortable.'”
Most of the women on The View agreed that Biden’s “affectionate” touches did not constitute a #MeToo scandal. When Meghan McCain noted that Flores herself didn’t claim Biden’s touch was a sexual assault, Goldberg shot back, denouncing the thinly-veiled political attack.
“But that’s the point, that’s the point, is to get people to think about it like that,” like a #MeToo scandal, Goldberg said. She insisted that “it does not rise to any of those things.”
She went even further, however. “I feel it would be unfortunate if we got rid of everybody who’s an affectionate kind of person,” Goldberg said. Later on, she said, “That pisses me off, I’m telling you, because I don’t want Joe to stop doing that.”
Abby Huntsman wondered about Flores’s motive. “I always wonder when these things come out what is the motive? Is it simply to let people know I was uncomfortable, which you could have done in private? Or is it because you want someone else to win and you want him to have doubts about actually announcing for the presidency?” she asked.
Many of the women on The View openly wondered if the new #MeToo standards against sexual harassment would derail the possibility of normal interactions between men and women, regardless of power differentials.
“Are we going to get to a place where we can’t shake hands or hug each other because that to me was uncomfortable?” Huntsman asked.
“I want women to get to the place where they can just say, ‘You just made me uncomfortable.’ If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell them,” Goldberg said. She noted that Biden had come to Flores’s political event as a “favor,” so she had “every right” to tell him if he was making her feel uncomfortable.
Both Brzezinski and Goldberg are right — Joe Biden’s creepy touching and kissing (never on the lips) are merely signs of affection and should not be considered a sexual harassment scandal in the #MeToo vein.
But Democrats have indeed pushed a ridiculous standard on the issue. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 candidate, attacked Neomi Rao, President Trump’s nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals, for using a standard that would make Goldberg’s comments essentially a defense of rape.
“You said when having a conversation with Senator Ernst ‘women should take certain steps to avoid becoming a victim.’ What steps do you have in mind that women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?” Harris asked Rao.
“Senator, it’s just sort of a commonsense idea about, for instance, excessive drinking. That was advice that was given to me by my mother.”
“So that is one step you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?” Harris asked, as if the idea were utterly alien to her.
“It is just a way to make it less likely. It’s not to blame the victim,” Rao responded. “You know, rape and sexual assault are horrible crimes, but we’re talking about what can you do to keep yourself safe.”
“Are there other steps that you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?” the senator pressed again. She then launched into the “gotcha” portion of the question, “So do you believe if a woman does not take those steps that she is at fault or partially at fault for what happens to her?”
Without hesitation, Rao declared, “No.”
“So what is the significance of taking those steps?” Harris pressed.
According to Kamala Harris, any advice to women about making their boundaries with men clear and avoiding situations that could make them vulnerable to rape or sexual assault constitutes “blaming the victim.”
Under the Kamala Harris standard, Whoopi Goldberg is complicit in rape or sexual assault because she suggested that women have the agency to say, “You just made me uncomfortable.” This basic and good advice outs Goldberg as an ally of the patriarchy and men’s oppression of women.
Naturally, the Kamala Harris standard is nonsense, and Americans know that. Women should be able to give advice to other women about avoiding sexual assault. This actually helps women stay safe against the real threat of sexual assault and rape.
Joe Biden needed to hear that his hands-on approach made Lucy Flores feel uncomfortable. Biden has said he listened to Flores and will learn from the experience. This should be enough.
But under the Kamala Harris standard, Mika Brzezinski and Whoopi Goldberg are horrific misogynists for saying so.
Brzezinski is right. Democrats need to re-examine their position on the #MeToo movement. If they don’t want Joe Biden’s creepy hugs and kisses to count as sexual harassment, they need to make the standard clearer and more reasonable.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.