Disclaimer: The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily represent the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.
Two women. One man. Same behavior. And a whole lot of confusion. New allegations of inappropriate touching by a former vice president and possible 2020 presidential candidate are highlighting a dangerous standard that, quite frankly, can’t be met. This is a standard that depends on how the person who was touched felt about the touching at the time.
Lucy Flores, a Nevada lawmaker, accused former Vice President Joe Biden of acting inappropriately when he put his hands on her shoulders and kissed the back of her head during a campaign rally in 2014. Flores said she felt “gross, uneasy and confused.”
On April 1, Biden responded by saying, “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. 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.”
To CBS, Flores replied: “I really need him to acknowledge that that behavior was not appropriate. Frankly, my point was never about his intentions, and they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the person on the receiving end of that behavior and the way it makes that person feel, especially in that situation in which you have power imbalance going on. ”
But then a second woman came forward. In 2015 at the White House, she stood next to her husband during a swearing-in ceremony. She said Biden sensed her nervousness and hugged her and kept his hands on her shoulder as a means of offering support.
A double standard
What? How can we have a standard where one woman feels awful, terrible and that the touching was wrong, but another woman says she was comforted by the same exact behavior by the same person?
In either case, Biden never asked for permission. How a person who was touched feels about the same action cannot be the standard. The standard should be you cannot touch someone without first asking that person’s permission.
My standard is no touching, but that’s just me. I did not grow up a hugger or toucher and honestly, I am not a fan of being touched.
But a standard based on how someone felt cannot be the standard because look, Biden did something wonderful and terrible at the same time. How can that be any kind of standard? One woman feels what the former vice president did was “gross, terrible,” but another says Biden was comforting and caring, even nice.
The standard is confusing exactly because once we lived in a world where touching was OK, but now the culture is changing and interpretations of the same behavior are viewed very differently and clearly touching is not OK with everyone. So until we have the new standard on affection nailed down, do what I do and follow the kindergarten rule: Unless you have permission from a person, keep your hands to yourself.
More to the story
Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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