On Friday, March 29, Lucy Flores, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada, wrote an essay in The Cut detailing an incident in 2014 when Vice President Joe Biden sniffed her hair and kissed her on the back of her head. Flores emphasized that while she isn’t saying his actions were illegal, the “imbalance of power” made her feel “uneasy, gross and confused,” as well as “powerless.” With this in mind, as well as Biden’s all-but-official campaign for the Democratic candidacy, the Nevada politician felt compelled to speak out.
Flores certainly isn’t the first to bring up Biden’s lack of consideration for women’s and girls’ personal boundaries; his behavior has inspired photo compilations on sites like Gawker and the Intelligencer (we’ll delve into his past in more detail further down). However, Biden’s tendency to invade women’s personal space was often written off as one of the laughable idiosyncrasies of “America’s Favorite Uncle” (because there’s nothing more hilarious than an uncomfortable woman, right?). Flores explained:
On occasion that title was downgraded to America’s Creepy Uncle but that in and of itself implied a certain level of acceptance. After all, how many families just tolerate or keep their young children away from the creepy uncle without ever acknowledging that there should be zero tolerance for a man who persistently invades others’ personal space and makes people feel uneasy and gross? In this case, it shows a lack of empathy for the women and young girls whose space he is invading, and ignores the power imbalance that exists between Biden and the women he chooses to get cozy with.
The possible 2020 hopeful issued a statement in response—and yes, it’s firmly a statement and not an apology. If you’re trying to find the word “sorry” in there, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
It’s clear from his behavior and his non-apology that Biden is a relic from another era of the Democratic Party. Since the #MeToo movement began in fall 2017, the public has paid increased attention to cases of men abusing their positions of power and disregarding the women around them. Biden’s behavior shows that he continually ignores the wishes and the personal boundaries of the women and girls he non-consensually kisses and nuzzles. While he is now quite outspoken on the behalf of sexual assault survivors and on other women’s issues, that by no means gives him carte blanche to be a creep. Below is a brief timeline of Biden’s #MeToo transgressions:
—1991: Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed up Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing. Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment during the hearing, and many believe Biden mishandled her allegations. Even in a 2014 HuffPost interview, Hill said she felt that the Scranton-born politician failed to properly address the sexual harassment she experienced. Last week, Biden decried the “white man’s culture” that contributed to Hill’s treatment in the hearing and said he regretted his actions in the committee, adding that he wished he “could’ve done something.”
—November 1, 2014: Biden came out to support Flores and fellow Democrats running in Nevada. She recalls, “I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified … He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening.”
—January/February 2015: At a Senate ceremonial swearing-in from January 2015, Biden trotted out strange lines and invaded the personal space of senators’ female family members. The event led to a supercut on the Daily Show, showing Biden saying to women and girls, “Hey sister, you’re beautiful,” and, “Hi Emily, how are you? I hope you have a big fence around the house.” He brushes the hair of one girl aside and asks to take a picture alone with her. One of the creepiest moments comes when he leans in very close to Sen. Christopher Coons’ (D-Del.) then-13-year-old daughter, who is clearly trying to edge away from his advances. Nevertheless, Biden kisses her on her head. The Daily Show clip also shows video from former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s February 2012 swearing-in, during which Biden places his hands on Stephanie Carter’s shoulders and leans in to talk to her. Stephanie has clarified in a Medium essay, “Let me state upfront that I don’t know [Flores], but I absolutely support her right to speak her truth and she should be, like all women, believed. But her story is not mine. The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful.”
—January 2017: Biden oversaw another Senate swearing-in, with BuzzFeed News’ Emma Loop detailing his repeated compliments about women’s appearances (e.g., “What a beautiful smile.”) and the kiss he planted on Sen. Chuck Grassley’s wife.
We don’t need someone leading our country who treats women as objects and sees their personal boundaries as inconsequential. That guy’s already in office, and he really sucks.