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On Tuesday former vice president Joe Biden attended an event held by the American Federation of Teachers in Houston to debut the first major policy platform of his campaign for president: an education proposal. While his plan was something many could get behind—and included an increase in teacher pay and support for universal kindergarten—there was a somewhat jarring moment during his speech that, according to some people on Twitter, overshadowed his policy discussion.
After a 10-year-old girl asked Biden a question about the divided state of the country, he responded with a long answer touching on immigration. He then added, “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking.” The young girl’s mother then told Biden that her favorite subject was journalism, so he brought her to the back of the room to meet members of the press in attendance and then put hands on her shoulders. The moment was first reported on Twitter by Washington Post national political reporter Felicia Sonmez. You can watch the full exchange here, beginning at the 43:20 mark.
Just two months ago—during the run-up to Biden’s candidacy announcement—Lucy Flores, a former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada, wrote an essay for New York magazine’s The Cut, explaining that that when Biden touched her shoulders and kissed her on the back of the head at a campaign event in 2014, she felt “uneasy, gross, and confused.” After the essay was published, two more women echoed Flores’ sentiments to the New York Times.
Biden later shared a video statement on Twitter that he captioned with, “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.”
So when Sonmez first reported on Biden’s exchange Tuesday night, Twitter was vocal. Salon’s Amanda Marcotte wrote, “When Biden refused to apologize to Anita Hill or women who complained about his handsiness, feminists warned you that Biden is arrogant and entitled and doesn’t think he needs to listen to people’s authentic concerns. But, as usual, feminists are right and ignored.”
Author and speaker Jessica Shortall wrote, “Stop commenting on little girls’ appearances, @JoeBiden. At BEST, you’re doing them a disservice, reminding them that how they look is open to your subjective judgment. Worse, you’re reinforcing the ‘normalcy’ of your consumption of them. Worst, it’s really, really creepy.”
Several other prominent people weighed in:
According to a tweet by Sonmez Tuesday night, Biden’s campaign had declined to comment on the incident. It remains to be seen how this will impact the 76-year-old’s candidacy.
Originally Appeared on Glamour