Former Vice President Joe Biden still hasn’t actually entered the 2020 Democratic primary race, but allegations that he’s a creep are rolling in regardless. Now, two more women say that Biden made them uncomfortable by touching them without consent, according to the New York Times.
Caitlyn Caruso, a sexual assault survivor, says she was 19 when she interacted with Biden at a meeting at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. At an event about sexual assault, Caruso says that Biden put his hand on her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long.”
Caruso, who is now 22, says she was particularly put off by her encounter with Biden because she had just told him about her experience with sexual assault. She expected Biden to understand her boundaries.
“It doesn’t even really cross your mind that such a person would dare perpetuate harm like that,” she told the Times. “These are supposed to be people you can trust.”
Another woman, D. J. Hill, met Biden at a fundraiser in 2012 in Minneapolis. Hill, 59, and her husband were taking a photo with Biden when he put his hand on her shoulder and began sliding it down her back, making her “very uncomfortable.”
Hill says her husband, noticing her discomfort, put his hand on Biden’s shoulder and made a joke to interrupt him.
Hill says she doesn’t know what Biden’s intention in the moment was.
“Only he knows his intent,” she told the Times. Hill added, “if something makes you feel uncomfortable, you have to feel able to say it.”
Neither Hill nor Caruso said anything about their discomfort during or after these encounters.
Biden’s affinity for being touchy-feely with strangers is hardly a secret. Supercuts of his affectionate behavior, caught on video, started appearing online years ago. In many of these videos, the women he’s touching appear uncomfortable.
As accounts likes these have emerged, others womenhave come to Biden’s defense. Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, posted on Medium this week to dispute the interpretation of a photo of her and Biden during her husband’s swearing in. She says that Biden placing his hands on her shoulders was innocuous, calling it a “means of offering his support.”
Others, including Meghan McCain, former Democratic House candidate Erin Bilbray, and former Senator Jean Carnahan have all defended Biden’s actions.
On Twitter, Carnahan described Biden’s support after she lost her husband.
“It was his empathy and encouragement more than that of any of my colleagues, that gave me strength to meet each day,” she wrote. “And, yes, I sometimes, got a shoulder pat or even a head kiss. Joe has a deep desire to share in the lives of others—their grief, pain, and joy. He reaches out through the human touch to connect and express those feelings.”
But even allies of Biden’s admit that times are changing.
“This is stuff mostly that he’s done in front of everybody,” David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to President Obama, told the Times. “I’m sure his intent was benign, but through the lens of today, it looks like something different.”
Lucy Flores, a former candidate for lieutenant governor of Nevada, was the first to say publicly that she felt uncomfortable when Biden put his hands on her shoulders and kissed the back of her head at a campaign event in 2014.
“It was completely inappropriate,” she told CNN on Sunday.
Today, according to the Times, Biden sent reporters quotes from dozens of women, including members of Congress, former aides, and media figures like Mika Brzezinsk, lending their support and vouching for his character.
Biden has yet to apologize for any of these actions. Instead, he’s released a statement saying he has never intentionally made any woman uncomfortable.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support, and comfort. And not once—never—did I believe I acted inappropriately,” Biden said in his statement. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”