When Truths Collide

By the time then-Vice President Biden had arrived, he could sense I was uncharacteristically nervous- and quickly gave me a hug. After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, he leaned in to tell me “thank you for letting him do this” and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support. But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.

These are the words Stephanie Carter used to describe the now infamous moment when #metoo came for Joe Biden. In the aftermath of that viral image, a still shot of an actual real-life event that had both a long history and an immediate context which the image cannot capture, the snarkiest parts of tv and the internet started running a constant stream of Joe Biden has a problem with inappropriately touching women.

Over the weekend, news broke of a 2015 campaign event in Nevada where Lucy Flores, who was running for the state’s Lt. Gov position, felt humiliated and assaulted by Vice President Joe Biden and felt she must speak out now.

Read Flores piece about it. 

How did the Democratic field, many of whom have known Biden for years, respond? With rote #metoo responses calculated to play with well to their base. Flores truth needs to be heard! Joe Biden needs to explain! Also, Joe Biden’s explanations do not matter– this is about believing women!

Color me unimpressed. This is the liberal version of offering thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting. It is empty rhetoric meant to show that they will stick to the approved talking points of the base’s position. Yawn.

A more interesting and honest response would have been this– what the hell are we talking about? Where did the idea that Joe Biden is a sexual predator come from and how did none of them see it before? Gee Bernie, in the decades you spent in the Senate with Joe Biden you never saw a chance to confront him over his gross sexual behavior? Why is that?

Maybe because it is not a real thing.

It is no secret that Joe Biden is considered “warm and affectionate.” He has been extremely physical with men and women in public for decades. Seriously. It is in every profile of him. Google has untold numbers of images of Biden whispering in men’s ears, holding them closely, rubbing their backs, holding their shoulders and the like. I haven’t seen a single story or op-ed suggest that this is creepy or offer it as anything resembling mitigating evidence.

Flores, by her own account, was swayed by media images of Biden being “too close” with women in public settings. She referred to this image that the story I linked here as Biden “nuzzling” Stephanie Carter’s neck. And nearly every story Flores links mentions the Carter story as well. The problem, of course, is that this is not how Carter interpreted it.

Take note of all the media accounts Flores links to. Not one reputable news source among them. All aggregators, fluffy morning shows, late night comedy programs, and snarky opinion pieces. Not one of them reaches out to the women in the stories. Half of them are just Gawker rehashing their first piece on it over and over again. Most of these pieces include links to the mounting “evidence” that Joe Biden is a creep. The problem is, the evidence is just the same pictures and clips being used without context on repeat.

This narrative is about as compelling as the one about Joe Biden shitlessly washing an 80s Trans-Am on the White House lawn. You can find almost as many articles on this, all linking to the same source material. Of course, the source for this is the Onion.

This is the problem with the “hear her truth” response from the media and Democratic candidates. Flores “truth” that Joe Biden is a serial molester runs into Stephanie Carter’s “truth” that Joe Biden is a physically empathetic person who senses unease in others and uses touch to communicate support. You can have your own truth, but when you lob it into a public discussion about what makes for appropriate behavior (or who is qualified to lead our nation) you ask the rest of us to make a value judgement.

My judgement: By Flores own words, she was swayed to think ill of Biden’s behavior by irresponsible and snarky “journalism.” Carter, who has known Biden for many years and is patient zero for the “Biden is a creep” movement says it was innocent support. I’ll take Carter’s truth.

Using lazy opinion pieces from people who know none of the principal actors and who did no background research along with literal comedy sketches as evidence that a man who has lived in the public eye for longer than I have been alive is a serial molester is absurd. I do not know what is in Joe Biden’s heart. And I cannot speak for the women and men in the images with him. Neither can the journalists who are at the heart of this narrative, since they couldn’t be bothered to actually consult any of them before creating a viral narrative and writing countless pieces about an “open secret” that was anything but. Joe Biden, Lucy Flores, and Stephanie Carter all deserved better than what our social media ecosphere had to offer them.


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