Former Vice President Joe Biden broke his silence on the ‘inappropriate touching’ scandal, saying he ‘tried to make a human connection’ but ‘will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.’
‘Today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I’ve made to some women and some men and I’ve made them uncomfortable,’ he said in a video posted on Twitter.
‘I always try to be in my career, always tried to make a human connection. That’s my responsibility, I think. I shake hands, I hug people. I grab men and women by the shoulders and say you can do this, whether they’re women, men, young, old. It’s the way I’ve always been and tried to show that I care about them and I’m listening. Over the years knowing I’ve been through, the things that I’ve faced, I found that scores, if not hundreds of people have come up to me and reached out for solace and comfort. Something, anything that may help them get through the tragedy they’re going through. So it’s just who I am,’ Biden added.
But his two minute video did not contain an apology to the women who said they were made uncomfortable by his hugs and kisses.
Joe Biden broke his silence on the ‘inappropriate touching’ scandal
He said he’s never thought of politics as ‘cold and antiseptic.’
‘Now, it is all about taking selfies together. Social norms begin to change and they’ve shifted and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been re-set and I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying,’ he said.
The former vice president vowed to be more ‘mindful and respectful’ going forward.
‘I understand it. And I’ll be much more mindful. That is my responsibility. My responsibility and I’ll meet it. But I’ll always believe governing, quite frankly, and life for that matter is about connecting, about connecting with people. That won’t change. I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space and that is a good thing. That is a good thing,’ he noted.
He concluded by addressing his history as an advocate for women.
‘I worked my life empower women. I worked my whole life to prevent abuse. So the idea that I can’t adjust to the fact the personal space is important – more important than it’s ever been, is just not true. I will. I will,’ he said.
Biden also indicated he intends to go forward with his plan to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
‘In the coming months I’ll be talking with you about a whole bunch of issues and I’ll be direct with you,’ he said at the beginning of the video.
He is expected to announce a bid this month.
Joe Biden Statement
In the coming month I expect to be talking to you about a whole lot of issues and I’ll always be direct with you but today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I have made to women and some men, and I’ve made them uncomfortable.
And I’m always trying to be, in my career, I have always tried to make a human connection. That’s my responsibility I think. I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders to say “You can do this.”
Whether they’re women, men, young, old, it’s the way I’ve always been and the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.
Over the years, knowing the things that I’ve been through and the things that I’ve faced I’ve found that scores, if not hundreds of people, come up to me, and reached out for solace and comfort, something, anything that may help them get through the tragedy they’re going through.
So, it’s just who I am.
And I’ve never thought of politics as a cold and antiseptic. I’ve always thought of it as about connecting people – as I’ve said, shaking hands, hands on the shoulder, a hug, encouragement.
And now, now, it’s all about taking selfies together.
You know social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset.
I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying.
I understand it and I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility – my responsibility and I’ll meet it.
But I always believe, governing, quite frankly, life for that matter is about connecting, connecting with people.
That won’t change but I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space and that’s a good thing – a good thing.
I’ve worked my whole life to empower women. I’ve worked my whole life to prevent abuse. I’ve written, err, err, and so the idea that I can’t adjust to the fact that personal space is important, more important than it’s ever been is just not there.
I will. I will.
His defense comes a day after President Donald Trump weighed in on the scandal.
‘I was going to call him. I really don’t know him well. I was going to say welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe?,’ Trump said at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Spring Dinner Tuesday night. ‘Are you having a good time.’
It also comes after two more women came forward to say the former vice president made them physically uncomfortable.
Caitlyn Caruso, 22, said she met Biden at an event devoted to sexual assault at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where she studied as an undergrad.
Caruso, who was 19 years old at the time, said that Biden placed his hand on her thigh while she squirmed in her seat to show how uncomfortable she was, according to The New York Times.
She said Biden then gave her a hug and held it ‘just a little bit too long.’
Caruso told the Times that she was startled at Biden’s behavior because she had just told the audience of her own experience as a sexual assault survivor.
Caitlyn Caruso (left), a survivor of sexual assault, says Joe Biden (right) placed his hand on her thigh and hugged her ‘just a little bit too long’ at an event at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas on April 7, 2016
She said she was also mindful of the fact that Biden was one of the authors of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.
‘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 alleged incident of inappropriate touching took place at a fundraiser in Minneapolis in 2012.
It was there that Biden met D.J. Hill, 59, a writer who attended the event with her husband.
At one point during the evening, Hill and her husband were posing with Biden for a photograph.
According to Hill, Biden put his hand on her shoulder and then began to run it down her back.
She told the Times that this made her ‘very uncomfortable.’
Hill said that her husband noticed Biden’s hand caressing his wife’s back. He then put his hand on Biden’s shoulder and told a joke so as to break up the moment.
Hill told the Times that she did not complain at the time. She says she does not know what Biden’s intentions were or whether he was even aware of what he was doing.
‘Only he knows his intent,’ Hill said, adding that times have changed to the point where ‘if something makes you feel uncomfortable, you have to feel able to say it.’
In total, four women have now gone public with claims that Biden’s physical behavior with them made them uncomfortable.
Biden’s Democratic competition has been careful in their response. Beto O’Rourke (left) said it was Biden’s decision on whether to run while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (right) said she believed his accuser
Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) said he didn’t think the accusations disqualified him from running while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (right) said Biden needs to give an answer
Sen. Kamala Harris (left) said she believed his accusers but that it’s up to Biden to decide whether to run while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (right) said ‘this is a topic he’ll have to engage on further’ if he runs
Biden’s Democratic competition has struck a careful tone on the accusations, saying the women need to be listened to but stopped short of saying the former vice president should not run in 2020.
‘Ultimately, of course this is a decision for him to make. And then beyond that it’s going to be a decision, if he’s in the race, for the voters in the primary states and caucus states of this country to decide,’ O’Rourke told SiriusXM host Mark Thompson when asked if Biden should run.
‘I have no reason not to believe her,’ said Sen. Amy Klobuchar on ABC Sunday of Biden’s first accuser.
Bernie Sanders said he’s not convinced Biden is disqualified from the presidency from ‘one incident.’
‘I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but her point is absolutely right. This is an issue not just for Democrats or Republicans, but the entire country has got to take seriously. It is not acceptable that when woman goes to work or is in any kind of environment that she feels anything less than comfortable and safe. And this is an issue the entire country has got to work on,’ he said on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation.’
Campaigning in Iowa this last weekend, Elizabeth Warren said ‘I believe Lucy Flores and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.’
Asked if she thinks Biden should reconsider his bid for the presidency, Warren replied: ‘That’s for Joe Biden to decide.’
Sen. Kamala Harris of California said Tuesday that she believed his accusers but that it’s up to Biden to decide whether to run.
Another 2020 hopeful, Kirsten Gillibrand, said, ‘If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he’ll have to engage on further.’
Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s wife says this photo of Biden touching her shoulder was ‘misleading’ and that he was helping her get through the nervous occasion
Biden leans in to say something to Maggie Coons, next to her father Sen. Chris Coons after Biden administered the Senate oath to Coons in 2015
Vice President Joe Biden kisses a niece of incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Biden’s aides had struck a more aggressive tone as the former vice president faces scrutiny over his past behavior toward women.
In a statement on Monday, Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted ‘right wing trolls’ from ‘the dark recesses of the internet’ for conflating images of Biden embracing acquaintances, colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching.
Russo complained Monday about Flores’ references to documented instances of untoward behavior that ‘crossed a line between affectionate or supportive behavior and something—however unintentional—more inappropriate or unwelcome.’
He griped about photos of Biden with Stephanie Carter and Sen. Chris Coons’ daughter Maggie. The latter was a cringe-inducing moment because of the then-13-year-old girl’s facial expression.
Carter and Coons, a Delaware Democrat, have defended Biden in statements on the incidents.
‘She did not think of it as anything,’ he told The Washington Post. ‘All three of my kids have known Joe their whole lives.’
In a Medium post, Stephanie Carter said the image of Biden’s hands on her shoulders while her husband was being sworn in as defense secretary has been taken out of context.
She wrote that she didn’t appreciate the attention generated by news coverage of a photo ‘misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends.’
Russo’s statement came on a day on which a second woman said Biden had acted inappropriately, touching her face with both hands and rubbing noses with her in 2009.
Amy Lappos, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, says the alleged incident occurred at a fundraiser for Democratic Congressman Jim Himes.
‘It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,’ Lappos, 43, told The Hartford Courant. ‘He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.’
Lappos’ story amplified claims by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and others that Biden should be disqualified from holding the presidency.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played defense on Tuesday, acknowledging that Biden should give people more personal space but arguing that he shouldn’t be drummed out of the White House race.
Lucy Flores said on Friday in a personal essay that Biden planted a ‘big slow kiss’ on the back of her head before she went on stage at a rally for her campaign on November 1, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Flores and Biden pictured above at that event)
Amy Lappos, 43, says she felt uncomfortable when Joe Biden touched her at a fundraiser
‘I don’t think it’s disqualifying,’ she told Politico. ‘He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.’
The recent news cycles about Biden began with a complaint from a former Nevada state lawmaker who claimed Biden nuzzled the back of her head and made a point of smelling her hair during a public campaign event.
Lucy Flores said he also kissed her on the head and put his hands on her shoulders before she went onstage.
‘I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?’ Flores wrote. ‘I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified. I thought to myself, “I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual f**k?”‘
Biden on Sunday defended his years of what he called ‘expressions of affection’ and claimed he ‘not once – never – did I believe I 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. And not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully,’ he said in a statement.
‘But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at 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.’