Tuesday’s New York Times kept track of new allegations of inappropriate behavior with women by potential Democratic candidate Joe Biden with “Second Woman Says Biden Made Her Uncomfortable,” by Sydney Ember and Jonathan Martin. Yet half the story was composed of strenuous denials and unrelated minor gaffes by right-leaning entities, in what seemed a ham-handed attempt to distract from or neutralize Biden’s behavior:
A second woman on Monday accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of touching her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable, intensifying the scrutiny of the former vice president’s close physical interactions with women over the years as he prepares for a likely presidential bid.
The woman, Amy Lappos, said in an interview with The Hartford Courant that Mr. Biden “put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me” at a fund-raiser in Connecticut in 2009.
Biden had already been accused by Nevada politician Lucy Flores of having touched and kissed her at a campaign event in 2014:
[Biden spokesman Bill] Russo cited an image of Mr. Biden holding the shoulders of Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and another of Mr. Biden kissing the head of Senator Chris Coons’s daughter, arguing that the criticism of the former vice president was rooted in inaccurate assumptions about what was occurring in the pictures.
The reporters didn’t laugh Russo’s excuses away but took them seriously, helping Biden’s damage control (click “expand’’):
Mr. Russo pointed out that much of the criticism about Mr. Biden’s conduct has come from Republicans and that some of it has been manufactured entirely.
The aide pointed to photoshopped images, including one in which Mr. Biden is portrayed touching Ms. Carter’s breast, and another cropped photo of the former vice president comforting his grandson at the funeral of his son, Beau -- which he called “most galling of all.’’
“These smears and forgeries have existed in the dark recesses of the internet for a while,” Mr. Russo said. “To this day, right-wing trolls and others continue to exploit them for their own gain,” he added, warning against a “cottage industry of lies.”
None of the above changes anything regarding what Biden actually did.
Ember and Martin tried desperately to spin Biden’s unwanted nuzzling and groping into a minus for Republicans:
Mr. Biden’s advisers believe that the more the right pushes images of him, real or fake, the more it will help them persuade Democrats that Republicans are trying to derail a potential challenger who performs best in polls against President Trump....
Meanwhile, former Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt sounded rather desperate in his attempts to give Biden a fair shake in his Tuesday newsletter. Before turning his newsletter over to Harvard professor Theda Skocpol to defend Biden, Leonhardt concluded: “I’m increasingly thinking that it should not become a defining issue for his likely campaign.’’
Well, that’s convenient. It’s far from how Leonhardt treated the (more serious) accusations leveled at Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which were wholly unsubstantiated, unlike the well-documented Biden touches.
Harvard professor Skocpol’s outrage on Biden’s behalf sounded forced. One thing came through clearly: The so-called “one free grope” rule instituted by well-known alleged feminist Gloria Steinem during the Clinton era is now even more generous, as long as the incidents happened pre-#MeToo, and the accused isn’t some “right-winger.” Add a touch of blame the victim, and voila:
The piling on about Joe Biden’s sometimes unwanted affectionate touches by political competitors and media outlets is shameful. Both women who have come forward so far are not talking about workplace abuse or sexual misconduct. I can believe them, and still ask why they are speaking up now.... Is this what gender equality really means? Is this the kind of society we want to live in -- where right-wingers can do any vicious thing they want to anyone and shrug it off, while people on the center-left are supposed to expel from public life anyone who says a single wrong word or has done something benignly intended in the past that now does not fit changed norms?
Not me, that is not the kind of America I want to live in....
Skocpol’s ridiculous defense concluded with this sad line: “Everyone else, meanwhile, needs to get a grip.”
“Get a grip”? Perhaps not the best closing statement in defense of the handsy Biden.
Times reporters have previously gone to embarrassing lengths to protect Biden’s hands-on reputation. Technology reporter Nicole Perloth embarrassed herself in November 2017 after trying to call the Twitter police on people who dared demonstrate Biden’s creepy behavior. She tweeted this: “In the past 24 hours, a new alt-right fake news meme had emerged of Biden as predator. How will @twitter handle?”
After massive pushback pointing out that the “new alt-right fake news meme” clips showing questionable touching by Biden were actually taken from C-SPAN, Perloth deleted the tweet and other related ones defending Biden.