- Former Vice President Joe Biden has come under fire for accusations of inappropriate behaviour as he mulls a 2020 presidential run.
- A spokesman for Biden pushed back on accusations, citing the women in viral images defending him and refuting claims he was inappropriate or overstepped.
- Several 2020 presidential candidates have demanded that Biden answer for the accusations.
A spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden pushed back on accusations of inappropriate behaviour, citing a “false narrative” perpetuated by trolls from the “dark recesses of the internet.”
Biden spokesperson Bill Russo said in a statement Monday that multiple pictures being used to paint the potential 2020 presidential candidate as creepily touching women are being misinterpreted and have been refuted by the subjects of photos that have gone viral.
Russo noted two photos. One involves Biden holding the shoulders of the wife of former Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during his swearing-in ceremony; The other is of a 2014 ceremony in which Biden kissed Democratic Sen. Chris Coons’ daughter on the head and whispered into her ear.
In his statement Russo noted that former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores cited Biden’s photo with Carter as similar to her experience. Flores wrote an op-ed in New York Magazine detailing how Biden made her feel uncomfortable at a campaign event when she was the then-Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. As Flores described it, Biden inappropriately touched her and kissed her head.
“Here’s the problem: in neither case is the often repeated and recirculated interpretation true,” Russo said. “Both Stephanie Carter and Senator Coons have now felt compelled to speak out to put these ugly urban legends to rest.”
“In other words, the familiar characterizations these two photos that have been uncritically perpetuate, turn out to be very false,” he added. “The Carter and Coons accounts are not ‘updates’ of old stories: they are corrections of false ones.”
The instance with Stephanie Carter in 2015 – coupled with the accusations from Flores – prompted the former defence secretary’s wife to write a Medium post Sunday demanding the image not be used to go after Biden.
“After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, he leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support,” Carter wrote. “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.”
Carter wrote that she “thought it would all blow over if I didn’t dignify it with a response. But clearly that was wishful thinking.”
“I won’t pretend that this will be the last of that picture, but it will be the last of other people speaking for me,” she added.
Coons dismissed any notions that Biden was inappropriate in 2014, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace that his daughter was not uncomfortable. Coons serves in the Delaware Senate seat Biden once held, and is close with the former vice president.
“She doesn’t think the Vice President is creepy,” Coons said in 2014. “He was being Joe. He was being thoughtful, and he was being sweet.”
Biden spokesman blames a concerted effort to ‘smear’ the prospective presidential candidate
Russo said the accusations and photoshopped images depicting Biden acting inappropriately are the product of underground smear campaigns by trolls with ulterior motives.
“These smears and forgeries have existed in the dark recesses of the internet for a while,” he said. “And to this day, right wing trolls and others continue to exploit them for their own gain.”
“There are other, even more insidious examples of claims about the Vice President that have no foundation: the use of photoshopped images and other manipulations of social media,” Russo added. “Perhaps most galling of all, a cropped photo of the Vice President comforting his grandson outside of his son Beau’s funeral has been used to further this false narrative.”
Russo also noted that Biden has repeatedly sought to hear out women who have experienced things similar to the incidents of which Flores has accused him.
“The Vice President has issued a statement affirming that in all the many years in public life that he has shaken a hand, given or received a hug, or laid his hand on a shoulder to express concern, support, or reassurance, he never intended to cause discomfort,” he said. “He has said that he believes that women who have experience any such discomfort, regardless of intention, should speak and be heard, and that he will be among those who listen.”
The accusations from Flores prompted a handful of 2020 presidential candidates to demand that Biden address the issue head on, with many saying they believe the former Nevada lawmaker.
But while many called on Biden to speak out about the allegation, they left it up to him to decide how this changes his presidential ambitions.