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Former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden raised eyebrows after making a comment many called “inappropriate” during his appearance at a Houston, Texas, town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers on Tuesday.
During the event, Biden took a question from a young girl in the audience about divisions in the U.S.
“What I’m going to do, is if you give me an address, I’m going to write you a longer answer and tell you the exact things I’m going to do, OK? Promise?” he said. “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking.”
Biden then asked the girl what her favorite subject was in school, to which she replied “journalism, I guess.” He joked that he should “be more circumspect” in his answers as he took her by the hand and led her over to the section of the room where members of the press were stationed.
Then, Biden put his hands on the young girl’s shoulders, saying, “The reason who we are who we are is called a free press.”
Biden’s behavior has previously come under scrutiny after multiple women came forward with accusations of unwelcome physical contact or interactions with the former vice president before he announced that he would run for the White House in 2020.
He addressed the allegations in a video posted to his Twitter account in April.
“Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it,” he said. “I hear what they’re saying, I understand it, and I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility.”
Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it. pic.twitter.com/Ya2mf5ODts
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 3, 2019
Still, many on Twitter found the town hall physical contact and remark egregious.
It was not a great exchange. It was a sexist/heteronormative exchange in which Joe Biden exhibited his perceived "right" to touch girls without their prior consent. Plus, flirtations between a grown man and a 10 year old girl about how "goodlooking" she is are inappropriate!
— A Jewish Feminist ✡🔥 (@M_Lipshutz) May 29, 2019
To all the guys in the comments defending Biden...it’s GROSS. Unless it’s your kid/grandkid don’t put your hands on children. It sucks as a little girl AND an adult for strange men to touch you. Watch his video montages and how the kids react, they hate it.
— Stephanie Rae (@StepheRae) May 29, 2019
Nope. I don’t want some old guy complementing my daughter on her looks, steering her away from me, and placing his hands on her. This isn’t the first time Biden’s pulled this; didn’t he just say he would stop just a couple of weeks ago?
— Pamela Auble (@PamAuble) May 29, 2019
Other commenters disagreed, and brushed off the interaction as innocent.
Not a Biden fan, but, this is much ado about nothing. As a teacher I know we often make harmless physical contact with children. As a friend I often touch my friends innocuously.
— Marvin Smith (@MarvinSmith7802) May 29, 2019
Making a big deal out of him putting his hands on a 10-yo’s shoulders is nuts, tho. If he’s out of touch policy-wise, ok, let him lose on IDEAS, on the direction of the country. 2020 can be a real contest, no low blows. I don’t think Biden’s our best bet but I want it to be clean
— Maili Bradley (@mailibradley) May 29, 2019
I really wonder about folks who find this odd or troubling. It seems like a very human interaction.
— Amy Fried (@ASFried) May 28, 2019
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