Two more women have come forward with stories of former Vice President Joe Biden touching them in ways that made them uncomfortable, making it four total allegations against the potential 2020 presidential candidate in the last week.
Caitlyn Caruso, a 22-year-old sexual assault survivor, told The New York Times on Tuesday that when she was a 19-year-old college student, she met Biden at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Biden, she said, rested his hand on her thigh, even though she squirmed to indicate her discomfort. He also hugged her “just a little bit too long.” At the time, she said, she didn’t say anything publicly about it, but it felt uncomfortable because she had just shared her story of sexual assault.
“It doesn’t even really cross your mind that such a person would dare perpetuate harm like that,” Caruso told the Times.
She noted Biden was behind the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. “These are supposed to be people you can trust.”
D.J. Hill, a 59-year-old writer, said she met Biden in 2012 with her husband at a Minneapolis fundraising event. When she stepped up to take a photo with Biden, she said, he dropped his hand from her shoulder down her back, making her “very uncomfortable,” she told the Times. Her husband then put his hand on Biden’s shoulder and said a joke to interrupt. Hill didn’t say anything at the time, she said.
“Only he knows his intent,” Hill told the Times, noting she didn’t know whether Biden knew she was uncomfortable. “If something makes you feel uncomfortable, you have to feel able to say it.”
The two women are the latest to come forward with accounts of Biden touching them in ways that felt inappropriate or 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 in Greenwich, Connecticut.
And on Friday, former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores published an op-ed in New York Magazine’s The Cut, alleging that Biden touched and kissed her without her consent in 2014. During a Las Vegas campaign rally, she alleges, Biden approached her from behind, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head.
After Flores’ allegation, Biden responded by saying that in his years as a public figure, “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,” Biden, 76, said in a statement Sunday.
In response to HuffPost’s request for comment Tuesday, Biden’s spokesperson referred back to his Sunday statement.
Throughout Biden’s decades-long public career, there have been photos and videos that appear to show questionable contact with women, including Biden kissing a senator’s wife on the lips and whispering into a girl’s ear and then kissing her cheek as she appears to pull away.
As Biden considers launching a presidential campaign for 2020, these accusations of awkward or inappropriate contact are adding up, complicating his legacy of championing women’s rights and support for sexual assault survivors.
Amid the Me Too movement, there has also been renewed criticism of Biden’s handling of law professor Anita Hill’s testimony during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas. Biden has previously 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.
Late last month, Biden again offered up a non-apology on Hill, saying at an event in New York that he wished he “could have done something” to prevent attacks she faced after her sexual harassment allegations against Thomas, who was confirmed. Biden, who was a Democratic senator from Delaware and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, did not allow testimony from other women who had similar allegations or could corroborate Hill’s allegations against Thomas.