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Joe Biden releases video responding to sexual misconduct allegations: 'Social norms are changing'

Mr Biden is mulling a presidential bid, and leading in early polls among Democratic peers

Clark Mindock
New York
Wednesday 03 April 2019 16:22 BST
Joe Biden says he 'will be more mindful about respecting personal space'

Former Vice President Joe Biden has released a video in response to allegations of unwanted touching and kissing, promising to be more “mindful about respecting personal space”.

Mr Biden, who is mulling a run for the presidency, has been accused by at least four women of touching them without his permission in the past ten years. None of the women has accused the former vice president of sexual assault, but said that Mr Biden’s conduct nevertheless made them uncomfortable and feel helpless.

“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,” Mr Biden wrote in a tweet accompanying the video.

The issue of Mr Biden’s touching while on the campaign trail, and in public life, has surfaced after former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores said the vice president came up behind her at a 2014 event and kissed her on the back of the head, leaving her “uneasy, gross, and confused”.

Since Ms Flores came forward, at least three other women similarly have said they were the recipients of uncomfortable touches from Mr Biden — a political trait of his that as been on full display for years, but is under new scrutiny amid a growing national conversation about sexual harassment, misconduct and assault. Those women include Amy Lappos, a former aide to Representative Jim Himes, as well as two women who have made similar allegations in The New York Times.

“Today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I have made to women and some men that have made them uncomfortable. 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.’ And, 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,” Mr Biden said in the video.

“Over the years, knowing what I’ve been through, the things that I’ve faced, I’ve found that scores if not hundreds of people have come up to me and reached out for solace and comfort — something, something, anything that may help them get through the tragedy they’re going through,” Mr Biden continued. “It’s just who I am. ... I’ve never thought of politics as cold and anti-septic. I’ve always thought about it as connecting with people. As I said, shaking hands, hands on the shoulder, a hug, encouragement, and now ... it’s all about taking selfies together. You know, social norms have being to change. They’ve shifted. And, the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And 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.”

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Mr Biden is considered to be a front-runner among Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination, even though he has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

He has run for president two times previously, including a run in 2008 in which he eventually dropped out and joined Barack Obama’s winning ticket.

Mr Biden is known as something of a loose cannon, and his tendency to grab women by the shoulders and kiss them on the head has often been questioned and noted by observers.

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