Two more women have said they felt uncomfortable due to unwanted physical contact from Joe Biden, fueling a debate about the former Vice President’s affectionate interactions with women as he considers a 2020 presidential run in the #MeToo era.
Caitlyn Caruso, 22, told the New York Times on Tuesday that she felt uncomfortable when Biden rested his hand on her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long” at an event about combatting sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when she was 19.
D. J. Hill, 59, told the Times that, while taking a photo with Biden at a fundraising event in 2012, he put his hand on shoulder and then moved it down her back, making her “very uncomfortable.”
They join other women who have recently shared accounts of uncomfortable, inappropriate physical contact from Biden. On Friday, former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores published an essay describing an incident in which Biden came up behind her at a 2014 campaign rally in Las Vegas and kissed her on the back of the head, making her “feel uneasy, gross, and confused.”
“Even if his behavior wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful,” Flores wrote.
Biden has denied that he acted inappropriately with women and said it was not his intention to make anyone uncomfortable. “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,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
In a video on Wednesday, Biden said he has “always tried to make a human connection” with people he meets, but he vowed to be more respectful of their personal space in the future.
“The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it. I get it,” he said in the video. “I hear what they’re saying. I understand it, and I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility.”
Other women, including celebrities and feminist leaders, have spoken out in defense of Biden, praising him as a champion for women who fought for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act as Senator and led efforts to combat campus sexual assault as Vice President.
But as Biden mulls a run for President, he is facing scrutiny about how his treatment of women over a four-decade political career holds up in the #MeToo era — from the way he handled Anita Hill’s testimony during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the way he touches and interacts with women.
President Donald Trump — who has been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by at least 18 women and infamously boasted about grabbing women without their consent — mocked Biden at a rally on Tuesday night. “Welcome to the world, Joe,” he said.
Trump also joked about Biden when describing a meeting with a military general. “I said, ‘General, come here and give me a kiss.’ I felt like Joe Biden,” Trump said.
Leading Democrats have not condemned Biden over the complaints, though some have said he will have to address the accusations and adjust his behavior.
“I think it’s important for the Vice President and others to understand is that it isn’t what you intended, it’s how it was received,” she said.