Progressives urged Democratic primary voters not to dismiss concerns about former Vice President Joe Biden's conduct towards women and girls after the 2020 presidential candidate touched a young girl and commented on her appearance at a campaign event Tuesday evening.
At a town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers in Houston, Biden responded to a 10-year-old girl's question with the comment, 'I'll bet you're as bright as you are good-looking" before holding her by the shoulders and leading her over the press to introduce her to reporters.
"I bet you're as bright as you are good looking"
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) May 29, 2019
The comment came less than two months after Biden was forced to address numerous past incidents in which he had made touched and kissed women and girls without permission.
"Now, I am sure Biden meant nothing by this," wrote Rebecca Fishbein at Jezebel. "But it is clear Biden has learned nothing. Biden is not listening. It's not that hard not to touch someone! And yet, he can't seem to stop doing it."
Earlier this year, as political observers speculated that Biden would officially begin his presidential campaign, former Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores published an essay at The Cut, alleging that the former vice president had inappropriately touched her and kissed her on the head at a rally in 2014.
Critics pointed out at the time that Biden had conveyed a dismissive attitude toward sexual harassment during the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 and had been photographed and filmed touching numerous women and girls without their permission over the years.
"The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset," Biden said on April 3, days after Flores published her story. "I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying and I understand it. I'll be much more mindful. That's my responsibility and I'll meet it."
Former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel, who is running an unofficial presidential campaign aimed at steering the party away from nominating a president who would continue the United States' legacy of imperialism, tweeted Wednesday that Biden's continued behavior must be taken seriously as "indicative of how little he cares about sexual assault."
Not only is Joe Biden's creepiness around young girls not something to be dismissed lightly, his refusal to fully apologize and change his ways is indicative of how little he cares about sexual assault. We deserve a meaningful improvement over Donald Trump: Joe ain't it.
— Sen. Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) May 29, 2019
Adam Best, progressive podcast host of "The Left," noted that Biden's public appearances since he announced his candidacy have been relatively rare—and marked by incidents like Biden's comments on Tuesday.
Joe Biden's campaign brings him out for a rare town hall. Instantly does what he promised he wouldn't: makes a cringe-worthy comment, invades a young girl's space with lots of touching. He doesn't learn from mistakes, understand the moment. Sincerely fear Trump would destroy him.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) May 29, 2019
Two days after issuing his public apology, Biden appeared to make light of the accusations against him, placing his hands on at least two people at an event in Pennsylvania and joking to the audience, "I had permission."
"He doesn't learn from mistakes, understand the moment," tweeted Best on Wednesday.
A number of women expressed dismay that a number of young girls at Biden's events have now been exposed to the notion that men in positions of power can be expected to judge their physical appearances.
"It's troubling that Biden can't see why it's inappropriate to comment on a 10-year-old's beauty, or why it's demeaning to juxtapose a girl's looks with her intelligence," wrote Fishbein.
Biden's interaction with the young town hall attendee represented "that fun childhood moment where you realize men will always judge you on your looks in a way that's at best demeaning and at worst sexualized, threatening, and/or predatory, but it's the former vice president and everyone reads about it on Twitter," wrote Splinter writer Libby Watson.
that fun childhood moment where you realize men will always judge you on your looks in a way that’s at best demeaning and at worst sexualized, threatening, and/or predatory, but it’s the former vice president and everyone reads about it on twitter https://t.co/0Z37edeieR
— libby watson (@libbycwatson) May 28, 2019
"Stop commenting on little girls' appearances, Joe Biden," wrote women's rights advocate and writer Jessica Shortall. "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."
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. https://t.co/3QDat6BsoC
— Jessica Shortall (@jessicashortall) May 29, 2019
Meanhwile, journalist Erin Biba expressed dismay at Biden's status as the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary race, despite his well-documented history of inappropriate behavior—and the numerous "qualified women running for president" against him.
We have so many amazing qualified women running for president and it's this creepy misogynist who's leading the pack so that's awesome.
— Erin Biba (@erinbiba) May 29, 2019