At least two senior Republican senators have come to Joe Biden’s defense amid mounting allegations that he made women feel uncomfortable by inappropriately touching them while he was vice president.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that he believes Biden, who served as a Delaware senator for over 30 years before becoming vice president, is simply a “glad-handing politician” with good intentions.
“Maybe at times he’s done some things that make people feel uncomfortable, but it matters to me that what his intent is,” he said. “I just think he’s a good guy. I think he means nothing bad by this.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she never felt uncomfortable in her interactions with him. “I’ve known Joe Biden for so many years, and he is a very friendly, affectionate individual who is a natural toucher — never found him to be inappropriate,” she told reporters Tuesday.
At least four women have come forward in recent weeks alleging that Biden, who is expected to announce a 2020 presidential run, made them feel uncomfortable by touching them without their consent.
Former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores wrote in an op-ed for New York magazine on Friday that he put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head during a Las Vegas campaign rally in 2014. She was running for Nevada’s lieutenant governor at the time.
Since Friday, three more women have publicly accused Biden of inappropriate touching. A former congressional aide in Connecticut said he grabbed her head and rubbed noses with her at a 2009 fundraising luncheon.
The New York Times on Tuesday reported allegations from a 22-year-old woman who said he touched her thigh in 2016 during an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and from a 59-year-old writer who said he made her “very uncomfortable” by touching her back at a 2012 event.
Biden has not apologized to the women for any of those alleged actions. He released a statement Sunday saying he “never” believed he was acting inappropriately during his many years in public service.
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully,” he said in the statement. “But it was never my intention.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) split from Collins and Graham, telling reporters Tuesday that America is “no country for creepy old men.”
A representative for Kennedy, a frequent defender of President Donald Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against the president.
Democrats have largely defended Biden. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called on him to apologize but said his alleged behavior doesn’t disqualify him from the presidency.
“I think that it’s important for the vice president and others to understand it isn’t what you intended, it’s how it was received,” she said during an interview with Politico Playbook. “He has to understand in the world we live in now, people’s space is important to them.”