President Biden refused to join the chorus of fellow Democrats calling for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign, as Cuomo faces multiple scandals, including allegations of improper touching.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing and claimed any unwanted contact or kissing was not meant to be offensive but simply his “customary” greeting. Biden has similarly defended himself from accusations that he has inappropriately touched women.
“Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying,” Biden said in a message posted to Twitter in April 2019. “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.”
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
Biden’s statement followed accusations from multiple women who said he made them uncomfortable. Writer D.J. Hill told the New York Times that in 2012 while she and her husband posed for pictures with Biden he placed his hand on her shoulder and moved it down her back, making her “very uncomfortable.”
Former college student Caitlyn Caruso told the Times that she met Biden when she was 19 at an event about sexual assault that took place at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Caruso claimed Biden placed his hand on her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long” – after Caruso had spoken about her own experience with sexual assault.
Vail Kohnert-Yount told the Washington Post that when she was a White House intern in 2013 she had an awkward encounter with the then-vice president when Biden came over to introduce himself.
“He then put his hand on the back of my head and pressed his forehead to my forehead while he talked to me,” Kohnert-Yount said. “I was so shocked that it was hard to focus on what he was saying. I remember he told me I was a ‘pretty girl.'”
Kohnert-Yount said she did not consider the behavior to be sexual harassment, but “it was the kind of inappropriate behavior that makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace.”
Amy Lappos, who was an aide for Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., told the Hartford Courant that in 2009 Biden put his hand around her neck, pulled her in, and rubbed his nose against hers.
“When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth,” Lappos said.
Former Nevada politician Lucy Flores wrote in The Cut that in 2014 Biden put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head when the two were at a campaign event. She was running for Nevada lieutenant governor at the time.
“In my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection,” Biden said in his statement addressing the claims. “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.’ And whether they’re women, men, young, old, it’s the way I’ve always been. It’s the way I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.”
Cuomo similarly defended himself against a claim from Anna Ruch that he placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her when they met at a wedding in 2019. Ruch also said Cuomo put his hand on her bare lower back. A picture from the even showed Cuomo with his hands on Ruch’s cheeks.
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people, women, men, children, etc.,” Cuomo told reporters. “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. Men, women, it is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Ruch’s allegations came out after former Cuomo staffers Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett alleged that Cuomo acted inappropriately. Boylan said the governor kissed her on the lips without permission and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard a flight. Bennett told the New York Times Cuomo had asked her about her sex life and gave the impression that he “wanted to sleep with me.”
Cuomo denied Boylan’s allegations but apologized after Bennett and Ruch came forward.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it,” Cuomo said. “I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it.”
Since then, several other women have come forward with allegations against Cuomo, the most serious of which coming from an unidentified current member of his administration who reportedly claimed he invited her to the governor’s mansion to help with a cellphone problem then reached under her blouse and groped her. Cuomo’s office has denied this allegation.
Biden has also been accused of more serious misconduct, as Tara Reade claims he sexually assaulted her in 1993 when he was a senator and she was a member of his staff. Biden has denied that this ever happened.
uomo now faces pressure to step down from office, as state lawmakers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have called on him to resign.
Biden would not join them, instead telling reporters Sunday that people should wait for the findings from the New York attorney general’s investigation.
“I think the investigation is underway and we should see what it brings us,” the president said.