Facing blowback from an accusation of sexual assault, Joe Biden’s campaign has made a rather curious selection for his vice presidential selection committee: Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who has some #metoo issues of his own.
Biden’s campaign announced Thursday morning that Dodd would serve as one of four co-chairs on Biden’s vice presidential selection committee, along with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and longtime Biden adviser Cynthia Hogan.
A Biden campaign statement announcing Dodd’s appointment described him as “a longtime friend and colleague of Vice President Biden for almost forty years” who “has earned a reputation as a leading voice on domestic and international issues during his service in the U.S. Congress.”
But that’s not Dodd's entire reputation.
Dodd was well known as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) wingman during the 1980s — The Almanac of American Politics described his “reputation as a party boy and a partner-in-nightlife-crime” of the former senator.
And that includes one rather serious allegation of sexual assault by Kennedy in which Dodd allegedly participated. The incident was initially reported in Penthouse and confirmed by GQ Magazine in a 1990 profile of Kennedy republished in 2016:
It is after midnight and Kennedy and Dodd are just finishing up a long dinner in a private room on the first floor of the restaurant's annex. They are drunk. Their dates, two very young blondes, leave the table to go to the bathroom. (The dates are drunk too. ‘They'd always get their girls very, very drunk," says a former Brasserie waitress.) Betty Loh, who served the foursome, also leaves the room. Raymond Campet, the co-owner of La Brasserie, tells Gaviglio the senators want to see her.
As Gaviglio enters the room, the six-foot-two, 225-plus-pound Kennedy grabs the five-foot-three, 103-pound waitress and throws her on the table. She lands on her back, scattering crystal, plates and cutlery and the lit candles. Several glasses and a crystal candlestick are broken. Kennedy then picks her up from the table and throws her on Dodd, who is sprawled in a chair. With Gaviglio on Dodd's lap, Kennedy jumps on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair. As he is doing this, Loh enters the room. She and Gaviglio both scream, drawing one or two dishwashers. Startled, Kennedy leaps up. He laughs. Bruised, shaken and angry over what she considered a sexual assault, Gaviglio runs from the room. Kennedy, Dodd and their dates leave shortly thereafter, following a friendly argument between the senators over the check.
The story continues:
According to Loh, Kennedy "was sort of leaning" on Gaviglio, "not really straddling but sort of off-balance so it was like he might have accidentally fallen…He was partially on and off…pushing himself off her to get up." Dodd, she adds, "said 'It's not my fault.' " Kennedy said something similar and added, jokingly, "Makes you wonder about the leaders of this country."
Dodd’s heavy-drinking bachelor lifestyle in the 1980s, before he remarried, is well documented. And it’s not like it would be unknown by Biden, who served with both Dodd and Kennedy for decades. A 1983 Washington Post profile described him as a man who “likes the company of women, and has spent long, raucous nights in the bars of Washington and Martha's Vineyard.
Dodd also briefly dated Carrie Fisher, who described one boozy evening with Kennedy and Dodd where a drunk Kennedy asked her “So, do you think you’ll be having sex with Chris at the end of your date?” as Dodd looked at her with “an unusual grin hanging on his very flushed face,” Fisher wrote.
Biden’s choice of Dodd is particularly striking given his own recent campaign turmoil. Biden is facing his own accusation of sexual assault from Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer, who said last month that he assaulted and digitally penetrated her in a Capitol Hill hallway. Biden’s campaign has vehemently denied her allegation, though Biden himself hasn’t publicly commented.
Biden is well aware of how important it is to dominate with female voters to defeat President Trump. He’s promised that his choice for running mate will be a woman.
Dodd has faced heat for other actions over his career as well. Dodd chaired the Senate Banking Committee and led the Senate response to banking regulation in the wake of the great recession. But he faced accusations that he’d received preferential treatment and better rates on a pair of mortgages from a “VIP Program” set up by Countrywide, which his committee regulated. Dodd was forced to refinance those mortgages after they became public.
A Senate Ethics Committee investigation found “no substantial credible evidence” that he’d violated Senate rules, but said he should have “exercised more vigilance” to avoid the appearance of preferential treatment from the mortgage lender. That scandal may have led to Dodd’s decision not run for reelection in 2010.
Neither Biden’s campaign nor Dodd responded to questions about his appointment.
“Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden,” Biden Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement announcing the selection. “These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process. We are grateful for their service to the campaign and for their leadership.”
Cover: Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd and U.S Vice President Joe Biden speak during the 2nd Annual Creativity Conference presented by the Motion Picture Association of America at The Newseum on May 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)