Former US Vice President Joe Biden has long been viewed as a leading Democratic candidate in the 2020 US presidential race but after several allegations of inappropriate physical behavior, has his campaign ended before it even started?
For years, videos of Biden affectionately engaging with people have done the rounds over the internet but had never been strongly challenged. Further, no one had ever publicly declared any of his conduct as being improper.
That changed last Friday when former Nevada legislator Lucy Flores accused Biden of walking up behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders, smelling her hair, and landing a “big slow kiss” on the back of her head in 2014.
“He made me feel uneasy, gross, and confused,” Flores wrote in The Cut.
“The vice-president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it.”
A second woman, Amy Lappos, has made a similar complaint of Biden concerning a 2009 fundraising event in Connecticut, accusing the 76-year-old of touching her inappropriately and rubbing her nose.
"It wasn't sexual, but he did grab me by the head," Amy Lappos told The Courant Monday. "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."
A week after Lappos came forward, there are now seven women in total accusing Biden of inappropriate behavior.
We live in a different world now, a #MeToo era where victims are expected to be believed and any intrusion into one’s personal space is examined with a fine-tooth comb and the party demands a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior.
For Biden, he may be backed into an inescapable corner. The rush by Democrats to judge Brett Kavanaugh less any substantive evidence means members of his own party are unable to persuasively defend him.
Further, the timing of the allegations and the fact that it is largely women with Democratic Party ties suggests this may have been an internally co-ordinated attempt to damage Biden before he makes his announcement to run.
It was well known that Biden was going to announce his intentions to run in April and the drip-drip nature of the allegations allows for maximum political impact.
Just last month Biden told a gathering of Delaware Democrats that he gets “criticized by the New Left,” and it’s this arm of the party which opposes him.
Biden, for his part, left the stories to linger too long before addressing the claims by promising to be more "mindful and respectful" in a video released Wednesday but still, the former Delaware Senator comes across as archaic, and frankly “creepy.”
"I’ve always tried to be, in my career, I’ve 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,” Biden said in the video posted to Twitter.
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 (@JoeBiden) April 3, 2019
“It’s the way I’ve always been. It’s the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.”
But he says he understands times have changed and so should his behavior.
"I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand," Biden says. "I’ll be much more mindful."
The video too left the door open for Donald Trump to attack Biden and he duly obliged yesterday tweeting a doctored video of Biden fondling himself.
WELCOME BACK JOE! pic.twitter.com/b2NbBSX3sx— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2019
What’s more, Biden has yet to apologize for his past behavior, something which has upset accuser Sofie Karasek. He “didn’t take ownership in the way that he needs to,” she told the Washington Post.
“He emphasized that he wants to connect with people and, of course, that’s important,” she told the publication. “But again, all of our interactions and friendships are a two-way street … Too often it doesn’t matter how the woman feels about it or they just assume that they’re fine with it.”
Biden still hasn’t apologized to Anita Hill for the way he handled her sexual-harassment hearing against Clarence Thomas in the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. He has stated that he “owes her an apology,” and proclaimed he regrets that he “couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved,” but he’s never actually told her he’s sorry.
It’s beginning to look like a running theme of Biden and something he needs to get a handle on quickly if he has any hopes of securing the Democratic ticket.
Still, it must be noted that Biden has not been accused of any inappropriate sexual behavior, but a video is a powerful tool and the plethora of recordings in the context of #MeToo could leave lasting repercussions.
Biden has led every single national poll of the 2020 Democratic primary tracked by RealClearPolitics. In RCP’s average of recent national polls, Biden leads by 7 points. In an average of all national 2020 polls the site tracks, he leads by 11 and up until last week would have been the front-runner to secure his parties nomination.
It’s not yet clear what damage these allegations have on his numbers but they have put Biden on the back foot before his hat has even landed in the ring.
In 2016, Biden toyed with running for President and a long-time aide even wrote a 2,500-word announcement speech. In the end, he opted against it in the midst of losing his son in May of 2015.
For his potential 2020 run, he has prolonged his announcement so much that it has allowed the field to become oversaturated with candidates with no clear front-runner.
Had Biden entered the race earlier he would likely have headed the field from the beginning and would by now have had a campaign team in place to strategically fend off these allegations.
Instead, Biden is in a political crisis that not only threatens his presidential aspirations but his 50+ year political legacy.
"A week is a long time in politics."
What do you think of the allegations made against Joe Biden? Is he being treated fairly? Let us know in the comments below.