Joe Biden 2020: Bidens critics, defenders and potential rivals spar over his behavior around women
Two women have recently accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them inappropriately, sparking a debate about the possible 2020 presidential candidate‘s behavior. The women allege that Biden — while he was vice president — made them feel uncomfortable at Democratic Party functions.
Lucy Flores, a Democrat who served in the Nevada State Assembly, wrote a piece for The Cut on Friday alleging that Biden “inhaled” her hair and then kissed her before a campaign rally in 2014, when she was running for Nevada’s lieutenant governor. Former congressional aide Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant that Biden reached for her face and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Biden is known for physically embracing people in public. But he said in a statement Sunday that he never believed he 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’s statement said. “And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
Biden added that he “may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised by 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. And I will.”
Biden’s supporters, including several women, have been quick to defend the former vice president. A spokesperson for Biden even sent a list to reporters of quotes from women affirming their support.
Here is a rundown of what Biden’s supporters, critics, and potential 2020 rivals are saying about the alleged incidents.
2020 Democratic candidates
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on MSNBC — “Obviously there are very different levels of allegations, but the ones that we’ve heard about so far — these women feel demeaned and that’s not okay. So if Vice President Biden does choose to run for President of the United States, I imagine this is a conversation he’ll have to have with the American people.”
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper on NBC — “I don’t know all the details, but I think that’s why we have an election. But certainly it’s very disconcerting. Women have to be heard and we should start by believing them.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on ABC — “I think we know from campaigns and from politics that people raise issues and they have to address them and that’s what he will have to do with the voters if he gets into the race.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on CBS — “I have no reason not to believe Lucy. And– and I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country and to create environments where women feel comfortable and feel safe. And that’s something we have got to do.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — “I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — “I believe it’s important to listen and take seriously any incident like this.”
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro — “It’s his decision as to whether he wants to run for president and the decision of the American people as to whether they would support him or any candidate based on that candidate’s record and experience and so I’m going to focus on my campaign and leave that into the hands of him as a candidate and the American people.”
Alyssa Milano, actress and activist — “I am proud to call Joe Biden a friend. He has been a leader and a champion on fighting violence against women for many years, and I have been fortunate to accompany him to events with survivors where he has listened to their stories, empathized with them, and comforted them…Joe Biden’s response that he never meant to make anyone uncomfortable and that he’ll listen and learn from anyone who says otherwise is exactly the leadership we need to build a culture where women are heard and are equal.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat — “The Joe Biden that I have known for 25 years is a warm and friendly human being. He didn’t mean it as anything other than that. And I guess, there has never been a problem before. He’s a warm, tactile person. He reaches out and touches, and it’s like this and that [she touches a staffer’s wrist]. It’s hardly sexy. So, that’s not his intention, and it’s a new thing that people have been affronted by it. I mean, over 25 years I’ve never seen that before.”
Patti Solis Doyle, former chief of staff to Biden — “I worked for Joe Biden in 2008. He NEVER made me feel uncomfortable. In fact, I have a deep admiration for his empathy and compassion. Having said that, I believe Lucy Flores. More important, I respect her. Seems Biden does also and is willing to learn from her.”
Meghan McCain, co-host of “TheView” — “Joe Biden is a good, decent man. I do not believe – he has never made me feel uncomfortable once, I’ve been around him a lot…All I’m saying is that I vouch for his character, in my personal experience.”
Elizabeth Alexander, press secretary for Biden in the Senate — “Joe Biden thrives on personal connections; he emotes and he empathizes like no other, and when he reaches out to you — man or woman — he’s reaching out to touch your heart. If that’s a failing, I’ll take it. Though I haven’t talked with him about it, the Joe Biden I know would feel horrible and sincerely sorry if at any time in his career, even for a split second, he ever made anyone feel anything less than completely supported or empowered.”
Stephanie Carter, wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, responding to a photo of an interaction with Biden — “The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful…But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.”
Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, about a photo of Biden with his daughter Maggie Coons to CBS News’ Nancy Cordes — “My children have known Joe Biden their whole lives…There was a huge bank of cameras, about 50, TV cameras and still photographers, and my daughter who was 15 at the time was handling it all very well. And Joe, who knows her, whispered some encouragement, telling her she was doing great, that she looked wonderful, that he knows how hard it can be to be a teenager and have a dad who’s a senator and suggested if she wants to talk to his daughter at some point, that’s be fine…We’ve spoken this morning, we’ve spoken this past weekend. She views him, as do my sons, as someone who they knows well, who cares about them, and who was in this context, just providing encouragement and support.”
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican — “This is no country for creepy old men. And it needs to stop. Do I consider it inappropriate to smell someone’s hair? To get so close that I smell their hair? Yes! I mean duh! Somebody gets close enough to smell my hair they might get to smell my hair but they might lose some teeth. It’s inappropriate! But other than that I don’t know what to say. This is no county for creepy old men. And leaning in and smelling a guys hair or a woman’s hair is a little bit too close.”
Lucy Flores, responding to Biden’s statement — “I think that in terms of when he talks about his motivation, etcetera, we really need to also acknowledge that it’s not, it’s not about the intent, it is about the person on the receiving end of that behavior, that unwanted behavior, and the way in which it makes that person feel, especially, especially in a situation where you have that kind of a power imbalance going on.”
Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The NewYorker, appearing on MSNBC — “There is a reason why this movement after Me Too is called Time’s Up. There is a reason why he shouldn’t run, really — which is that it’s not about this that he shouldn’t run. But it’s because he’s not nimble in the mores and the language of today. And I think he’s going to spend a lot of campaign apologizing for all kinds of things he did or didn’t do. Baggage from the past. I think he’s an amazing, noble guy in many, many ways. But I suspect that time is up for Joe Biden.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times columnist — “So I don’t think Biden’s avuncular pawing is a #MeToo story… But if Biden was more oblivious than predatory, his history still puts him out of step with the mores of an increasingly progressive Democratic Party. On Sunday, ‘The New York Times’reported that some Democrats are bracing ‘for an extended reckoning about Mr. Biden and gender if he enters the race.’ The inevitably of such a reckoning should make Biden reconsider getting in.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — “I don’t think it’s disqualifying … [he] has to understand in the world that were in now, that people’s space is important to them and what’s important is how they receive — not necessarily how you intended it.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat — “I think it goes to show that the times are changing and people’s expectations of behavior are also changing, and I say that’s the good. Joe Biden is not a sexual predator. The president, however, is, and I think we should recognize the differences. I think we need to be aware that one shouldn’t invade other people’s space. You know? That is a message Joe Biden should take.”