Dr. Bill Bennett: Joe Biden has 'got to deal with this issue up front'
Will Joe Biden make a 2020 White House bid amid accusations that he 'inappropriately touched' multiple women?
Former Secretary of Education Dr. Bill Bennett said former Vice President Joe Biden has "got to deal with this issue up front” as reports of two more women accusing Biden of touching them inappropriately surfaced.
A total of four women have complained publicly about the prospective 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
“This is Joe Biden, I’ve known him for a long time. Let’s remember that Joe Biden has suffered losses unlike many of us. He lost his wife and his daughter in an accident, then he lost his son recently. I think he is naturally by disposition, someone who touches, reaches and I don’t think any of these things I’ve heard, rise to the level of such serious offence, so I’d give the guy some room,” Bennett told "America's Newsroom" on Wednesday.
The mounting scandal surrounding Biden, who has yet to officially enter the 2020 Democratic fray despite being seen as the frontrunner to challenge President Trump in the general election, started with allegations made by former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores that Biden kissed her on the back of her head during a 2014 campaign rally supporting her bid for lieutenant governor.
Flores made the accusations in a piece in New York magazine in which she accused the former vice president of approaching her from behind, putting his hands on her shoulders, sniffing her hair and kissing her on the back of the head.
"The vice president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it," she wrote.
Since then three other women have come forward to accuse Biden of unwanted touching during public events.
Amy Lappos, a former aide to Connecticut Democrat Rep. Jim Himes, claims Biden grabbed her during a $1,000-per-plate October 2009 fundraiser.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head," Lappos said. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
The New York Times reported that writer D.J. Hill said Biden in 2012 put his hand on her shoulder, then dropped it down her back in a way that made her "very uncomfortable" while Hill and her husband posed for pictures with him at a fundraiser in Minneapolis. Former college student Caitlyn Caruso also told the paper that Biden "rested his hand on her thigh — even as she squirmed in her seat to show her discomfort — and hugged her 'just a little bit too long' at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Biden has denied ever acting inappropriately toward Flores and his spokesperson referred Fox News' requests for comment on the new allegation to Biden's earlier statements.
"In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden said in a statement Sunday. "And not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."
Biden added: "I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”
On “America’s Newsroom” Wednesday Bennett said he thinks Biden will enter the 2020 race but said, “he’s got to deal with this issue up front and then move on to more serious matters. I think more serious matters.”
He added, “He’s got to respond to it and he’s got to deal with it adequately and he’s got to adjust his behavior obviously.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.