Caitlyn Caruso, one of four women who in the last week have accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them inappropriately, said she doesn’t think those accusations are what should disqualify him from running for president in 2020.
“I don’t think that these experiences should be what disqualifies him,” Caruso said in a TV interview with Univision Wednesday. She added that other parts of Biden’s record, including his mishandling of Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 and his stance on the Iraq War “should be what are actually drawn into scrutiny.”
In a New York Times story published on Tuesday, Caruso, 22, said that she had met the then-vice president at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when she was 19. She had shared her own story of sexual assault there, and says that afterward, Biden had rested his hand on her thigh even though she squirmed to indicate discomfort. He also hugged her “just a little bit too long,” she said.
Caruso told Univision that during their meeting, Biden “was a little uncomfortably physically affectionate.”
“He left his hand on my thigh, maybe in an attempt to console me, but regardless, it crossed my boundaries and made me feel uncomfortable,” she said. She added that it was important to have “even more nuanced conversations around consent.”
“If Biden is truly the advocate and the ally that he says he is, he would know that after a survivor speaks about their sexual assault, it might be too much to touch them; to ask before intruding on someone’s personal space,” she added.
Biden is an architect of the landmark Violence Against Women Act and has built a legacy of championing women’s rights and supporting sexual assault survivors.
Earlier on Wednesday, Biden released a video statement in response to the recent accusations, saying he would be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.” He stopped short of apologizing to accusers.
Three other women recently recounted uncomfortable encounters with Biden: D.J. Hill, a 59-year-old writer, told the Times on Tuesday that during a photo-op at a fundraising event in 2012, Biden dropped his hand from her shoulder down her back, making her “very uncomfortable.”
Amy Lappos, a former congressional aide, told The Hartford Courant on Monday that Biden grabbed her by the head and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 political fundraiser.
And last Friday, former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores published an op-ed in New York Magazine’s The Cut, alleging that Biden approached from behind, touched her shoulders and kissed the back of her head without her consent in 2014.
After Flores’ allegation, Biden, 76, responded in a statement Sunday by saying that in his years as a public figure, “not once ― never ― did I believe I acted inappropriately.”
As Biden considers launching a presidential campaign for 2020, Caruso said his “mistreatment of Anita Hill” is what people should consider when it comes to determining whether he’s qualified to run.
Amid the Me Too movement, there has been renewed criticism of Biden’s handling of law professor Hill’s testimony during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas. Biden has expressed regret for the treatment Hill received at the time, although Hill has called this insufficient because he did not directly address his own role in the matter.
“If we’re really centering sexual assault survivors, we have to make sure we recognize why he made this whole movement of ‘It’s On Us,’” Caruso said, referring to Biden’s initiative aiming to end sexual assault. “What is he making up for? And that is his mistreatment of Anita Hill in ’91.”