News and Commentary

Biden’s Rivals Pounce As ‘Handsy Joe’ Forced To Defend His ‘Expressions Of Affection’

Joe Biden has always played the role of the avuncular everyman, hobnobbing with the hoi polloi while his limousine idles nearby.

And he’s always touched women — a lot. No other picture captures Biden’s playful antics like this one:

What’s so perfect in the photo is the side-eye both bikers are shooting at the then-vice president as he grabs the shoulder of an unidentified woman from behind (one of his signature moves) during a 2012 stop at the ‘50s-style Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio.

Yes, Biden is getting away with it — again — but the biker dudes don’t look all that happy about it.

As it turns out, some of the women Biden grabbed weren’t too happy, either.

Democrat Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Assemblywoman who was running for higher office, came out last week with allegations that Biden inappropriately touched her during a campaign rally in 2014, saying she felt uncomfortable and demeaned by his touching. The story bounced around over the weekend, finally making it to the top slot on the Drudge Report.

But Biden’s fellow Democrats — especially the ones who are already running for president — did not come to his aid this time around.

In fact, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pounced on the allegations. “I believe Lucy Flores,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in Iowa on Sunday. “And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was asked if Flores’ allegation disqualifies Biden from running for president, a decision the former vice president is expected to make any day now. “That’s a decision for the vice president to make,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” But then he offered a tiny bit of support. “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”

But former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is running in 2020, said Biden’s actions were “very disconcerting.”

“Certainly, I think it’s very disconcerting and I think that women have to be heard and we should start by believing them,” Hickenlooper said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

And another candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said she has “no reason not to believe” Flores.

“I think we know from campaigns and 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,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Of course, there are dozens of photos of Biden laying his hands on women — not allegations of unwanted touching, mind you, but photos nonetheless. Another infamous picture is this one:

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But the photos are not always what they seem — or what gets reported. In the above snapshot, Biden is offering support to Stephanie Carter as her husband Ash Carter is being sworn in as Secretary of Defense in 2015.

In her own piece on the photo that ran Sunday on the website Medium, Carter said she was “the sole owner of my story” and defended Biden.

“By the time then-Vice President Biden had arrived, he could sense I was uncharacteristically nervous- and quickly gave me a hug. After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, he leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support,” she wrote.

“Meanwhile, when I next saw the Bidens, I told them I felt awful that after he had generously taken time out of his day to swear in an old friend, his attempt to support me had become a joke and even more  —  supposed proof positive that he didn’t understand how to respect women. I thought it would all blow over if I didn’t dignify it with a response. But clearly that was wishful thinking,” Carter wrote.

Biden, for his part, defended his avuncular ways — which he called “expressions of affection” — and said he did not believe 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. 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 on Sunday.

“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.”

This isn’t the first time Biden’s “expressions of affection” have been questioned, and it won’t be the last — especially if he jumps into the 2020 race. But it is the first time that his fellow Democrats have left him to twist in the wind.