Op-Ed: Biden Reaps the #MeToo Whirlwind
‘It’s never, never, never, never, never OK to touch her without her consent,’ he told college men in 2011.
While speaking to students at the University of New Hampshire in 2011, then-Vice President Joe Biden told men in the audience that “no matter what a girl does, no matter how she’s dressed, no matter how much she’s had to drink—it’s never, never, never, never, never OK to touch her without her consent.”
One of Mr. Biden’s signature issues during the Obama administration was fighting an alleged epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. He promoted the debunked claim that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted as undergraduates—the result of surveys using an impossibly broad definition of sexual assault that encompassed any conduct that, knowingly or not, made someone uncomfortable.
The Obama administration issued guidelines to campuses in 2011 to combat the alleged crisis. Mr. Biden headlined the announcement. The guidance traduced due-process rights for students accused of sexual assault and threatened colleges and universities with federal investigations and potential funding reductions if they did not find more accused students and professors guilty.
Now those impossible standards are being applied to their proponents. Since last Friday, several women have accused Mr. Biden of making them uncomfortable during his interactions with them. One accuser, Caitlyn Caruso, told the New York Times that during an event about sexual assault at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Mr. Biden put his hand on her thigh and didn’t remove it even when she showed discomfort by shifting in her seat. She also said he hugged her “just a little bit too long.”
On campus, such behavior can get you in trouble. Author Junot Díaz was subject to a month-long investigation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for allegations that included an unwanted kiss. He was ultimately cleared. A student at California’s Saddleback College, Marcus Knight, who is mentally disabled, was even suspended for taking a “selfie” with a female student and touching her shoulder. His suspension was eventually lifted, but the misconduct still appears on his record.
Mr. Biden’s habit of touching women without first asking would also run afoul of campus “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” policies—which he defended in a speech at George Mason University in 2017, saying, “Consent requires affirmative consent!” Under the letter of such policies, men must have verbal permission for any sexual act. Mr. Biden allegedly touched and kissed women without first asking if he could do so. No one thinks he had sexual intent, but on campus intent may not matter.
Mr. Biden has also jumped on the believe-all-women bandwagon, telling the Washington Post last September that “you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
When accused himself, Mr. Biden naturally fell back on all the arguments that are often dismissed when made by college men. He said it was never his “intention” to make women uncomfortable. He also acknowledged that “social norms have begun to change” without acknowledging that he helped lead the change—and hasn’t lived up to the standards he sought to impose on others.