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After a series of accusations of inappropriate behavior from multiple women, former Vice President Joe Biden said he will be more mindful of personal space, but he stopped short of offering an apology.
“Social norms have begun to change; they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset — and I get it,” said Biden, 76, in a video posted to his Twitter account. “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. I’ll always believe that governing, quite frankly, life for that matter, is about connecting. 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 worked my whole life to empower women; I’ve worked my whole life to prevent abuse, so the idea that I can’t adjust to the fact that personal space is more important than it’s ever been is just unthinkable. I will. I will.”
Over the past week, four women have come forward to say Biden had made them uncomfortable, with actions ranging from a kiss on the back of the head to a hand resting on a thigh for too long. Videos and photos of Biden touching women in public have been circulating for years, combining with the latest claims to cause some to question whether he should embark on his expected run for president.
But Biden began the two-minute video with what sounded like a confirmation that he would indeed enter the Democratic field of candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
“In the coming month I expect to be talking to you about a whole lot of issues,” the former vice president said before explaining that his style of politics was to make a human connection through encouragement and contact.
“Today I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I’ve made to women and some men that have made them uncomfortable,” said Biden. “I’ve always tried in my career to make a human connection, and 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, and it’s the way I tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.”
Biden referenced the personal tragedies he had experienced — the loss of his first wife and baby daughter in a 1972 car crash and the death of his adult son Beau to brain cancer in 2015 — and how that has caused others to seek him out in times of crisis.
“Over the years, knowing what I’ve been through, the things I’ve faced, I’ve found that scores if not hundreds of people have come up to me and reached out for solace or comfort, something, anything that may help them get through the tragedy they’re going through. It’s just who I am, and I’ve never thought of politics as cold and antiseptic. I’ve always thought about it about connecting with people. Like I said, shaking hands, hands on the shoulder, a hug, encouragement, and now it’s all about taking selfies together.”
The comments echo those of Biden’s original statement about the allegations made against him by women that he released Saturday.
"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's statement said. "And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week that the behavior should not disqualify Biden from a presidential run, and Stephanie Carter, a woman in one of the viral photos with Biden, defended him. Biden, who previously ran for president in 1988 and 2008, currently leads in a number of Democratic primary polls and has been reported to be planning a campaign launch in the coming weeks.
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