Politics

Biden promises in video message to be 'more mindful and respectful of people's personal space'

Key Points
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday released a two-minute video, in which he pledged to be "more mindful and respectful of people's personal space."
  • The video was Biden's most direct response so far to a growing number of women who claim he made them uncomfortable over the years with close contact.
Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday released a two-minute video, in which he pledged to be "more mindful and respectful of people's personal space."

The video was Biden's most direct response so far to a growing number of women who allege he made physical contact they felt was inappropriate. It also represents his most personal attempt so far to get out ahead of what appears to be a growing crisis for his all-but-announced 2020 presidential campaign.

"Folks, in the coming months I'll be talking to you about a whole lot of issues, but today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I've made to women and some men that have made them uncomfortable," Biden said, staring into the camera.

"In my career, I've always tried to make a human connection, that's my responsibility I think. I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say 'you can do this.' Whether they're women, men, young, old, that's the way I've always been, it's the way I've tried to show I care about them, and I'm listening."

But, he said, "social norms have begun to change, they've shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying, I understand. And I'll be much more mindful, that's my responsibility. My responsibility, and I'll meet it ... I will be more mindful and respectful of people's personal space. And that's a good thing."

The message came a day after two more women described to The New York Times how Biden had made them feel uncomfortable. And five days after former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores wrote an essay describing how Biden had placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed the back of her head at a 2014 campaign event. A fourth woman, Amy Lappos, told the Hartford Courant on Monday that she was made to feel uncomfortable in 2009, when Biden put his hands on her face and pulled her in close to "rub noses" with her at a political fundraiser.

Biden did not directly apologize for his past actions in the video released Wednesday.

In a sign of how seriously the issue could hobble a potential Biden presidential run, on Tuesday evening President Donald Trump likened the former vice president to himself, joking at a Republican Party dinner that he wanted to call Biden and "welcome" him to the world of politics in 2019. "I was going to say, 'Welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe? Are you having a good time?'" Trump quipped.

More than 20 women have come forward in recent years to allege that Trump either groped them, grabbed their genitals, kissed them without consent or even in at least two cases, sexually assaulted them. Trump has denied the allegations.

Biden concluded his video with what appeared to be a direct rebuttal to his critics on both sides of the aisle, who say he embodies a bygone era in which men were permitted to take more liberties with how they interacted with women.

"The idea that I can't adjust to the fact that personal space is important, more important than it's ever been, is just not thinkable. I will, I will," he said.

Watch the whole video here: