AP NEWS

Joe Biden was being supportive, not creepy, in viral encounters, friends say

April 1, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s camp sought Monday to squelch the “creepy touching” narrative spurred by a former Democratic lawmaker’s allegation of unwanted contact, arguing thattwo previous viral encounters were falsely characterized.

Biden spokesman Bill Russo cited statements saying that Mr. Biden was being friendly and supportive, not inappropriate, in his 2015 interactions with Stephanie Carter and the 13-year-old daughter of Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat.

Heres the problem: in neither case is the often repeated and recirculated interpretation true, said Biden spokesman Bill Russo in a press release. Both Stephanie Carter and Senator Coons have now felt compelled to speak out to put these ugly urban legends to rest.

In a Sunday essay, Ms. Carter, wife of former Obama administration Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said that Mr. Biden kept his hands on my shoulder as a means of offering his support during her husbands 2015 swearing-in ceremony, aware that she had slipped on the ice earlier that day.

But a still shot taken from a video misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends sent out in a snarky tweet came to be the lasting image of that day, said Ms. Carter in her Medium post headlined, The #MeToo Story That Wasnt Me.

This eloquent statement by Stephanie Carter is important to read as @JoeBiden’s conduct with women is debated. Having worked across decades with Biden I have seen firsthand how he has championed women’s opportunities advanced protections for all of us. https://t.co/bZ8Py3DStX Liz Sherwood-Randall (@LSRTweets) April 1, 2019

In another 2015 incident, Mr. Biden held the arm of the 13-year-old daughter of Mr. Coons, whispered to her and gave her a kiss on the head after administering the oath of office to her father.

The girl leaned away from Mr. Biden and appeared nervous, but according to Mr. Russo, Sen. Coons has reclaimed his daughters story.

In a 2015 Fox Newsinterview, Mr. Coons told host Chris Wallace that those depicting the viral encounter as creepy were wrong, saying, Chris, she doesnt think the vice president is creepy.

Hes known my kids their whole lives, Mr. Coons said. Joe was just being thoughtful. He was leaning forwardI could hear himhe was leaning forward and whispering some encouragement to her about how when he was sworn in and his own daughter Ashley was 13, she felt awkward and uncomfortable.

Over the weekend, Mr. Coons told the Washington Post that his daughter “did not think of it as anything,” adding that his children view Mr. Biden as a grandfather figure.

Mr. Russo blasted the cottage industry of lies surrounding the two episodes, saying that right wing trolls and others continue to exploit them for their own gain.

“In other words, the familiar characterizations of these two photos that have been uncritically perpetuated, turn out to be very false,” said Mr. Russo. “The Carter and Coons accounts are not ‘updates’ of old stories: they are corrections of false ones.”

The incidents received fresh attention over the weekend after Ms. Flores, a former Nevada state legislator, said in a Friday op-ed that she was shocked and mortified when Mr. Biden put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed her on the back of the head at a 2014 campaign rally.

His camp said in a statement that neither he nor his staff remember the incident. Mr. Biden released a statement Sunday saying that after years of handshakes and hugs in public life, not once - never - did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.

Ms. Flores, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, said the photos of Biden getting uncomfortably close with women and young girls helped convince her to come forward.

Had I never seen those pictures, I may have been able to give Biden the benefit of the doubt, she said in the New York magazine essay. Had there not been multiple articles written over the years about the exact same thing calling his creepy behavior an open secret perhaps it would feel less offensive.

The disclosure by Ms. Flores, who lost her 2014 bid for Nevada lieutenant governor, comes with Mr. Biden expected to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential primary within the next few weeks, leading the crowded field in virtually every poll.

Re-upping two pieces from late last week. First the story by @LucyFlores, who lays out meticulously, w thought great care, how the purportedly adorable handsiness of Joe Biden in fact was inappropriate made her uncomfortable in a professional context: https://t.co/XQJ93NhyV1 Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) April 1, 2019