Biden to be ‘more respectful’ of personal space after allegations from several women

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to be “more respectful” of personal space in a Twitter video posted Wednesday afternoon. The video is the first time Biden has spoken publicly in response to several women who said he made them feel uncomfortable by touching and even kissing them.

“I’ll be much more mindful,” Biden said of his interactions in the future. “I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”

He acknowledged his career-long habit of making close contact with people, whether hugging or even grabbing them by the shoulders. “I’ve always tried to make a human connection, that’s my responsibility I think … whether they’re women, men, young, old. 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.”

The list of women who have complained about Biden has grown to four, according to a New York Times story Tuesday.

One was a college student and sexual assault survivor who said Biden “rested his hand on her thigh — even as she squirmed in her seat to show her discomfort — and hugged her ‘just a little bit too long’ at an event on sexual assault in Las Vegas three years ago,” the Times reported.

The other incident reported by the Times took place in 2012 when a woman about to have a photo taken with the vice president said, “He put his hand on her shoulder and then started dropping it down her back, which made her ‘very uncomfortable.’”

Biden, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, said the “boundaries of personal space” have been reset in recent years. “I get it. I hear what they’re saying, I understand it, and I’ll be much more mindful,” he said. “That’s my responsibility.”

This early controversy comes as Biden is leading in a number of polls on the Democratic presidential primary even though he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy. He again hinted that he will join the race at the beginning of Wednesday’s video: “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.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Biden adopt the “straight arm policy” during an event with Politico. “I’m a member of the straight arm club … just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold,” Pelosi said. “He’s an affectionate person, to children, to senior citizens, to everyone, but that’s just not the way.”

President Trump jumped on the accusations during an appearance Tuesday night, taunting Biden, “I was going to call him,” Trump said. “I don’t know him well. I was going to say, ‘Welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe? Are you having a good time?'”

Earlier this week, the top female state lawmakers in Delaware came to Biden’s defense.

“I’ve knocked on doors with him, stood outside grocery stores, been at events, taken pictures with him, and I’ve not once felt he ever presented himself in a different manner than was respectful to me,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst.

Longhurst described Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009,  as “very personable.”

“Joe Biden’s the type of guy you don’t feel like he’s a politician,” she said. “He’s your best friend and you’ve known him forever.”

As for Flores, Longhurst said, “I wasn’t there, so I didn’t see it. I’ve never seen that and I’ve been around him for a long time.”

Erik Raser Schramm, chairman of Delaware’s Democratic Party, said Monday that Flores “deserves our empathy and attention.”

“The discomfort that is palpable in her recent accounting of a 2014 interaction with Vice President Biden is not only valid, it’s vital for us to discuss openly, publicly, and honestly,” Schramm said.

“We know Joe well, and we know he has dedicated much of his public life to fighting for equality and women’s rights,” he added. “That makes it all the more significant that he continues to use his stature as one of our nation’s leaders to invite this important dialogue.”

Cris Barrish contributed to this report.

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