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Two more women have come forward to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. That makes four women in the last week who've said that the potential 2020 candidate touched them inappropriately.
One of the women who came forward Tuesday, 22-year-old Caitlyn Caruso, said that Biden put his hand on her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long” after the two met at a campus event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, she told the New York Times. Caruso, who was then 19, had just shared her story of sexual assault.
“It doesn’t even really cross your mind that such a person would dare perpetuate harm like that,” Caruso told the Times. “These are supposed to be people you can trust.”
D.J. Hill, a 59-year-old writer, also told the Times that Biden once put his hand on Hill’s shoulder and slid it down her back in a way that made her “very uncomfortable,” she said. The two had just taken a photograph together at a 2012 fundraiser in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her husband reportedly saw the gesture and stopped it by making a joke.
Neither woman said anything publicly at the time, though Caruso said she squirmed in her seat to make it clear that she was uncomfortable. They did not classify what happened as sexual assault or harassment, and no one has accused Biden of such behavior.
But some believe Biden’s familial style of touching strangers and supporters, perhaps without permission, is out-of-touch in the wake of the #MeToo movement — and a potential political liability for the 76-year-old Democrat’s chances in the 2020 presidential election.
“He has to understand in the world that we're in now that people's space is important to them, and what's important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi told Politico. But, Pelosi said, she doesn’t see the allegations against Biden as “disqualifying.”
And over the last few days, many women who know Biden or who have worked with him have publicly said that Biden tries to use touch to convey kindness and support. But not everyone sees his behavior that way.
On Friday, former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores said that Biden gave her an unwanted kiss on the back of her head just minutes before the two went onstage at a 2014 rally. Three days later, on Monday, Amy Lappos, a Connecticut woman and former congressional aide, said that Biden rubbed noses with her, which she felt was inappropriate, when she encountered him at a 2009 fundraiser. Neither women spoke up publicly at the time.
“I never filed a complaint, to be honest, because he was the vice president. I was a nobody,” Lappos told the Hartford Courant. “There’s absolutely a line of decency. There’s a line of respect. Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It’s not cultural. It’s not affection. It’s sexism or misogyny.”
In a statement last weekend, after Flores came forward, Biden said he did not intend to act inappropriately and make anyone uncomfortable.
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” he said. “I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”
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)