Democrats have a solid party line on the sexual harassment allegations being leveled at former Vice President Joe Biden: you get the first one free.
Both Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) rushed to Biden’s defense over the weekend, claiming that a single sexual harassment allegation — even if credible — shouldn’t immediately and irreparably derail a blossoming presidential campaign.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Durbin told NBC that a single, unproven sexual harassment allegation — like the one leveled at Biden by a former Nevada gubernatorial candidate last week — shouldn’t mean Biden should pack up his campaign offices before his bid for the presidency even gets off the ground.
“I can tell you that Joe Biden is a friend and a seasoned veteran when it comes to political campaigns. I know nothing about the allegations that I also read this morning, as well. I think all of us should take such allegations seriously and with respect,” Durbin said. “I took Joe Biden’s statement to say just that, exactly.”
“Yes, I think he’s ready if that’s his decision to move forward in this presidential campaign,” he added.
When asked whether the claim “disqualified” Biden, Durbin replied enthusiastically.
“Certainly one allegation is not disqualifying, but it should be taken seriously,” he said.
Bernie Sanders, who is Biden’s major threat in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was also oddly deferential to Obama’s former Vice President, telling CBS’s Face the Nation that, while he believes Lucy Flores, the woman who accused Biden of touching her inappropriately at a campaign stop in 2014, he also believes Joe Biden should get a second chance.
“I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make,” said Sanders, when asked whether Biden should continue to seek the nation’s highest office. “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”
Instead Sanders, who has faced sexual harassment problems of his own recently when several female former staffers revealed that they were treated poorly on Sanders’ campaign, and that Sanders and his top aides did nothing to address their concerns, said Biden’s issues are simpy the result of a world that continues to embrace patriarchy and oppress women.
“I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country and to create environments where women feel comfortable and feel safe,” Sanders said.
Of course neither lawmaker was as deferential during, say, now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings when the judge was accused of a single incident of sexual assault which took place several decades before when he and his alleged victim were both in high school, even though no evidence was presented to verify Kavanaugh’s accuser’s claim.
Biden, for his part, says he does not view his encounter with Ms. Flores as problematic.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said in a statement over the weekend. “And 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.”
Unfortunately, it appears more women may come forward with stories. A breaking news alert late Monday indicates that at least one other woman, a female campaign staffer, believes she was treated inappropriately by the former vice president. There may also be others; the sudden wave of concern over Biden’s past behavior — which went ignored while Biden and President Barack Obama were in office — seems to be conveniently timed to derail an early April announcement, and could be the work of another campaign.