The Biden affair: emerging stock phrases for harassment allegations?

Since the #MeToo movement, one of the dreaded developments for male politicians in America must be to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women colleagues.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden was accused last week of “inappropriate behavior” by a Nevada politician. She said he tried to kiss the back of her head.

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Nevada politician Lucy Flores started the ball rolling by accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior

This was followed by another woman who also alleged that Biden acted inappropriately toward her.

Was this it for Biden, who may still want to run in the upcoming presidential elections? Has Uncle Joe morphed into Creepy Joe almost overnight? And what is one to do in the face of such potentially damaging allegations at a time when men in high and powerful have regularly been outed for inappropriate behavior toward women and have had their careers destroyed, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not?

Biden’s carefully crafted response to the allegations is worthwhile looking into for crisis managers looking for clues to handle such situations.

In 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 that I did so I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.

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 that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention, and I will.

I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisors who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own.

And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.

It is a clever response. Not apologizing and not admitting to any wrong doing or inappropriate behavior yet not dismissing the allegation. In fact he paid lip service to the importance of how we have “arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention”

All reverential and paying tribute to women and their views. Then he moves on to his track record of defending women’s rights and how he will continue to do so.

The rest of the response was in the hands of his defenders – co-workers and colleagues. There is little else that he can do really. To try to defend himself more would make him sound defensive and only third party voices would have credibility at this stage.

One of his defenders was Susan Rice, the US’s Ambassador to the United nations during the Obama administration. Her choice of words was also interesting and her words, taken together with Joe Biden’s statement, seems to suggest that some new stock phrases for facing allegations of inappropriate behavior may be in the making.

Rice tweeted:

I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously. I have worked closely with @JoeBiden for many years. In my experience, he is warm and affectionate with women (and men). But never have I found his actions inappropriate or uncomfortable. I have always appreciated his kindness and warmth.”

Most importantly, I know @JoeBidento be a dedicated ally, champion and defender of women and all of our rights. There is no one I would rather be with in a foxhole. He is one of the most decent, honorable men I have been privileged to work with.

There it is again. That reverence (I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously) before stating her position supporting Biden.

So you have it, expect to see more of the  reverence-denial stock phrases cropping up more in the future.