- Former Vice President Joe Biden has faced several critiques in the past week, ranging from allegations of inappropriate conduct to analysis of his voting record on women’s issues.
- Biden is mulling a 2020 run for president but has not yet made a final decision about jumping into the race.
- Polling shows Biden as an early favourite, despite some controversial headlines about his past.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has come under fire after a former Nevada state assemblywoman accused him of inappropriately kissing her neck during a 2014 campaign event, while also facing criticisms over his handling of abortion policy during his early political career.
The resurfaced critiques come at a crucial time for Biden, who is mulling a third presidential run among the increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates.
Lucy Flores, a 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor in Nevada, wrote about her encounter with Biden in an op-ed for New York Magazine on Friday.
“He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head,” Flores wrote. “My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
Biden spokesman Bill Russo pushed back on the allegations in a statement but noted the former vice president empathizes with her.
“Neither then, nor in the years since, did he or the staff with him at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes,” Russo said. “But Vice President Biden believes that Ms. Flores has every right to share her own recollection and reflections, and that is a change for better in our society that she has the opportunity to do so. He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.”
There have been other instances in which individuals criticised or mocked Biden for getting too close to women, which are now resurfacing online following Flores’ article.
During the Barack Obama administration, Biden was frequently photographed in awkward positions during swearing-in ceremonies and on the campaign trail.
Biden has not been accused of sexual misconduct, but images of him getting close with women have often gone viral.
In one instance, during the swearing-in ceremony for President Barack Obama’s Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Biden was closely holding Carter’s wife, Stephanie.
Biden was also the subject of a New York Times report analysing his past record on abortion.
In 1982, when he was a second term senator from Delaware, Biden voted for a bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee that would have allowed individual states to overturn the landmark abortion Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.
“Joe Biden is trying to carve out a space for himself as the middle, moderate candidate, and he’s going to have to really get with the times and understand that standing with abortion rights is the middle, moderate position,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue told the Times. “I can’t tell you if he’s there or not.”
The past week also included Biden expressing regret for his role in the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and sexual harassment allegations made by then-Education Department staffer Anita Hill.
“She was abused through the hearing,” Biden said at his Biden Courage Awards. “She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could’ve done something.”
Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the tumultuous hearings.
“What should we have done differently? What can we do differently to make sure a woman who has been harassed and assaulted doesn’t go through a second round of harassment or public rape again simply because they had the courage to step forward?” he added. “It’s simply wrong. And we have to begin to look at things differently, in my humble opinion.”
Meanwhile Biden is gearing up for a potential 2020 presidential run. And recent polling shows him as a strong favourite among Democratic primary voters, in terms of both name recognition and confidence in his ability to beat President Donald Trump in a head to head matchup.
But other Democratic candidates, who could end up being key rivals in a heated 2020 primary, have chosen not weigh on the unflattering headlines for Biden.
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