Another three women have said that Joe Biden touched them inappropriately, hours after the former vice president released a video where he pledged to better respect personal boundaries.
Over the last week, a total of seven women have come forward to say that Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. The ensuing controversy has cast doubt on Biden’s long-rumored plans to run for the White House in 2020, and his camp has rushed to address criticism that Biden’s physical style of politicking is no longer acceptable in the age of #MeToo.
One of the women who spoke up on Wednesday, Sofie Karasek, told the Washington Post of an occasion where Biden pressed his forehead to hers after the two spoke at the 2016 Oscars about a college student who'd killed themselves after a sexual assault. Karesek, who had appeared onstage earlier alongside dozens of other survivors of sexual assault, said she knew the gesture was intended as kindly but also felt like her personal space had been invaded.
Another woman, Vail Kohnert-Yount, also told the Post that Biden once pressed his forehead against hers. She encountered the former vice president in 2013, when she was a White House intern. When Biden came over to introduce himself, he put his hand on the back of her head, put his forehead on hers, and started speaking to her.
“I was so shocked that it was hard to focus on what he was saying,” she said in a statement. “I remember he told me I was a ‘pretty girl.’”
And in 2008, Ally Coll, said that Biden gripped her shoulders and gave her a compliment about her smile, while holding her for what she called “a beat too long.” The two met while Coll was working as a Democratic staffer.
“There’s been a lack of understanding about the way that power can turn something that might seem innocuous into something that can make somebody feel uncomfortable,” Coll told the Post. She now runs an anti-sexual harassment nonprofit, the Purple Campaign.
A spokesperson for Biden declined to comment on the accounts reported by the Post but pointed the paper to a video Biden posted on Twitter on Wednesday. In the video, Biden sought to refute the allegations that he couldn’t respect people’s personal boundaries — but, notably, did not apologize.
“Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protected personal space have been reset,” Biden said. “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.”
“That’s a good thing. I worked my whole life to empower women,” he added later on in the video.
None of the seven women who have come forward said that they felt that Biden had sexually harassed or assaulted them, and many other women have spoken out in defense of Biden’s fondness for touch, which they see as supportive. But the three women interviewed by the Post also don’t believe that Biden had taken full responsibility for the times when his behavior may have crossed a line.
“He emphasized that he wants to connect with people and, of course, that’s important. But again, all of our interactions and friendships are a two-way street,” Karasek said. “Too often it doesn’t matter how the woman feels about it or they just assume that they’re fine with it.”
Cover image: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)