Biden, mulling White House run, seeks to stem fallout from women’s complaints

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden
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Former US Vice President Joe Biden attempted on Wednesday to tamp down a controversy over allegations of unwanted physical contact with women, releasing a video in which he pledged to be more mindful” of respecting”personal space.”

The move marked the most extensive and personal effort yet by Biden to quell the furor ahead of a likely bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. An announcement is expected later this month.

In recent days, four women have said Biden made them feel uncomfortable when he touched them at political events in past years.

“The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying,” Biden said in the two-minute video posted on Twitter.

“I will be much more mindful, and that’s my responsibility,”he said. “I’ve worked my whole life to empower women. I’ve worked my whole life to prevent abuse.”

After a former Nevada politician, Lucy Flores, said last week that Biden made her feel uneasy, gross, and confused when he kissed the back of her head at a 2014 campaign event, Biden released a statement saying he believed he never acted inappropriately during his many years in public life.

Three more women followed suit with similar complaints. Biden’s political team has tried to contain the damage,encouraging women who have known him to come forward with positive accounts of their interactions with him.

Flores could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. She supported US Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2016 Democratic presidential campaign. Sanders is running again,and his campaign has denied any involvement in her going public with her story.

There was no immediate response to Biden’s statement from leading Democratic contenders. US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and former congressman Beto Rourke, among others, have expressed sympathy for Biden’s accusers and have said they deserve to be heard.

President Donald Trump poked fun at Biden on Tuesday over the allegations. On Wednesday, the Republican president, who during his 2016 campaign faced multiple accusations from women of unwanted sexual contact, wished his potential rival luck, saying it was up to Biden to decide if he should apologize.

Biden, 76, has long been known for a warm and intimate campaign style. He served eight years as vice president under Democratic President Barack Obama after 36 years as a US senator from Delaware.

But his propensity for hugging and physical touching has come under new scrutiny in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp as awareness about sexual assault and harassment has grown and damaged the careers of dozens of men in politics and entertainment accused of sexual misconduct.