The message here is welcome, and I realize that by penalty-flagging him I’m guilty of what I complained about last night — diluting the Weinstein et al. horror stories with far lesser, albeit still inappropriate, transgressions. George H.W. Bush shouldn’t be introducing women to “David Cop-a-Feel” and Joe Biden shouldn’t be delivering impromptu neck massages to women uninvited, but their offenses are night and day compared to, say, Mark Halperin grinding his boner into an intern’s back during a work meeting.
And yet the fact remains, Joe Biden did deliver many impromptu massages uninvited. And it wasn’t okay, as conservative (and pretty much only conservative) woman noted at the time. Karol Markowicz, writing in 2015:
The most recent victim is Stephanie Carter. Her husband, Ashton Carter, was sworn in as the new defense secretary. As Ashton spoke at the podium, Biden rubbed Stephanie’s shoulders and whispered in her ear. She is only the latest in a series of women inappropriately groped by the vice president, America’s “Creepy Uncle Joe” as people stood by and watched. One of the more awkward moments from the Joe Biden inappropriate behavior reel is his whispering, grabbing, and ultimately trying to kiss Delaware Senator Chris Coon’ daughter Maggie. She is 13. Coons defended Biden saying that “he was being Joe” and it was just his way of being “thoughtful and sweet” to a young girl in the spotlight. Ultimately, what else could he say? Biden being Biden is an acceptable explanation to the media watching, what is a senator from the vice president’s party supposed to do?
His defenders claim he’s from a different era, the equivalent of the kissing host on Family Feud. Except this isn’t the 1970s and these women aren’t on a game show. Others find the humor in sexual harassment in a way they likely wouldn’t if Joe Biden didn’t have a (D) after his name.
Mary Katharine Ham rounded up some of Biden’s most Richard-Dawson-ish moments for this very website the same year. Said MK:
Biden is, of course, gregarious with everyone but he is handsy almost exclusively with women, and today, with several teenagers. He famously nuzzled a biker woman on the trail in 2012 in a photo that went viral, but at least she was a grown woman.
I was watching these young women today, being made uncomfortable in an already high-stakes situation for teens, and I wondered how I would have reacted at their age. Or, now for that matter. I’m not great at masking my feelings and I’ve called men out in bars or physically removed their hands from me for pulling the same moves. If it were a daughter of mine in their situation, I’d want her to feel perfectly secure asserting her boundaries and requiring even the VP recognize a widely understood sphere of personal space with people he doesn’t know. Perhaps he just needs one of those cultural guide books that teach you whether to kiss, bow, or shake hands.
Biden’s offense is even more minor than Poppy Bush’s, I’d argue, just because it’s unclear whether it’s prurient at all. Did he get any pleasure from giving Ash Carter’s wife a neck rub while her husband stood at the podium or was it really just his tin-eared way of expressing friendly affection? Whatever the truth, it’s hard to tell a man with power no. He should have known better than to put anyone in a position where they might want to but feel unable to do so.
As for Halperin, the latest is that Penguin has canceled his book about the 2016 election while HBO has abandoned its plans to turn the book into a miniseries. I wonder whose career is more irreparably damaged, his or Lisa Bloom’s.
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) October 25, 2017