Former Vice President Joe Biden’s attempt to stem the tide of the “Creepy Joe” accusations does not appear to have worked. A day after Biden offered his most direct statement about the increasing number of claims by women that he acted in a way that crossed the line, The Washington Post published the accusations of three more women, bringing the total to seven women who have come forward in less than a week to allege “inappropriate touching” against the presidential hopeful.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Vail Kohnert-Yount says that while she served as a White House intern in the spring of 2013, Biden did something that “shocked” her. Kohnert-Yount told the Post that one day while attempting to exit the West Wing basement, Biden entered. She was asked to step aside, which she did, but then Biden walked up to her to introduce himself and shake her hand.
“He then put his hand on the back of my head and pressed his forehead to my forehead while he talked to me,” she told the Post in a statement. “I was so shocked that it was hard to focus on what he was saying. I remember he told me I was a ‘pretty girl.'”
Though Kohnert-Yount said she didn’t feel that Biden’s intentions were sexual, “[I]t was the kind of inappropriate behavior that makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace.”
Sofie Karasek told the Post about a similar experience with the former vice president after an appearance onstage with Lady Gaga and 51 sexual assault survivors at the 2016 Oscars. When Karasek shared with Biden the story of a college student who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted, “Biden responded by clasping her hands and leaning down to place his forehead against hers, a moment captured in a widely circulated photograph,” the Post reports.
While she “appreciated Biden’s support,” the Post states, she also “felt awkward and uncomfortable that his gesture had left their faces suddenly inches apart.” The action left her stunned and was an example of the vice president “crossing the boundary into her personal space at a sensitive moment,” the Post reports.
A third woman, Ally Coll, who now runs the nonprofit Purple Campaign that works to prevent sexual harassment, said she met Biden in 2008 while working as a Democratic staffer. She says Biden squeezed her shoulders, gave her a compliment, and then held her “for a beat too long.” She attempted to blow off her feelings of discomfort, but felt that it was appropriate to come forward now that his behavior has come under scrutiny.
“There’s been a lack of understanding about the way that power can turn something that might seem innocuous into something that can make somebody feel uncomfortable,” said Coll. (Read the Post’s full report here.)
On Wednesday, Biden released a video statement addressing the accusations about his behavior. “For the coming month I expect to be talking about a whole lot of issues and I’ll always be direct with you, but today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I’ve made to women and some men that made them uncomfortable,” he said. “And I’m always trying to be, 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, it’s the way I’ve always been; it’s the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening. And over the years, knowing what I’ve been through, the things that I’ve faced, I’ve found that scores, if not hundreds of people come up to me, reached out for solace and comfort. Something, something, anything that can help them get through the tragedy that they’re going through, and so, it’s just who I am.”
Saying that “social norms” have “shifted,” Biden suggested that he has learned his lesson. “I’ve never thought of politics as cold and antiseptic; I’ve always thought about connecting with people,” he said. “As I said, shaking hands, hands on the shoulder, a hug, encouragement. Now it’s all about taking selfies together; 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 it and I’ll be much more mindful; that’s my responsibility. My responsibility and I’ll meet it. But I’ll always believe governing, quite frankly, life, for that matter, is about connecting, about connecting with people. That won’t change, but I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space. And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. I’ve worked my whole life to empower women. I’ve worked my whole life to prevent abuse. I’ve written a —so 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.”
Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it. pic.twitter.com/Ya2mf5ODts
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 3, 2019