It’s on you, Joe Biden

Biden greets students and fans after giving a speech March 20, 2018 in the University of Miami's Watsco Center that called for the prevention of sexual harassment and assault. Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

Last March, former Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker at the It’s On Us rally at the Watsco Center. The It’s On Us movement is a social movement geared towards spreading awareness about sexual and gender-based violence. Along with other speakers, Biden spoke of his experience with trying to end sexual violence against women.

His speech was powerful and transparent; he seemed to be wholly committed to addressing sexual assault on campuses and informed about the topic. He talked about consent and how sexual abuse is more about power than it is about sex. He left us in awe at how capable of a leader he was. Yet, Biden has always had this shadow of allegations and events following him that doesn’t quite match up with the Biden that spoke to students at the University of Miami.

Joe Biden still hasn’t apologized to Anita Hill for the way he handled her sexual harassment case against Clarence Thomas. Hill, who was then a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, brought to the Senate claims that Supreme Court nominee Thomas harassed her with talks of pornography when she worked for him in the 1980s. The Senate Judiciary Committee criticized Hill and dismissed her sexual harassment claims. Biden has since said recently that the senators who looked at the case were “just a bunch of white guys that didn’t fully understand what the hell it was all about” and that he wished he could have done more.

What Biden fails to realize is that he was one of those white guys. At the time, he was committee chairman so his helpless bystander claim doesn’t line up. He had the power to do something but didn’t. He currently has the power to say “I am sorry” to Anita Hill, but he hasn’t. And in the light of recent allegations from women claiming that Biden has indecently touched them, he has once again failed to truly apologize and take responsibility for his actions.

Last week, in an essay published by the Cut, former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores accused Joe Biden of inappropriately violating her personal space by smelling her hair and giving her “a big slow kiss”. A former congressional aide, Amy Lapp, also came out days after Flores with her own confession that Biden too violated her personal space. And before all this, social media has sporadically dubbed Biden “Creepy Uncle Joe” because of pictures floating around the internet of Biden being extremely close to several people.

Biden tried to quell the fire of the allegations with a two-minute contemplative video posted to Twitter. Thankfully, it wasn’t quickly scribbled in the Notes app and posted as a screenshot. In it, he said that he realized social norms have begun to change, vows to “be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.” He says he hears what everyone is saying, but that is questionable. If he did, he would realize that the intent of his actions didn’t matter. He would have understood that he crossed boundaries and made these women feel uncomfortable. If he truly heard what everyone was saying, he would have realized that he was at fault instead of hiding being antiquated ideas of personal space that have no place in modern politics or society.

There is a reason he didn’t say he was sorry: he isn’t. Last Friday, he showed us that he just really doesn’t get it, and judging how he handled the Anita Hill case, probably never will. At a conference in Washington, he told reporters, “I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I’ve never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.”

The Joe Biden that visited UM last year seemed like a man that understood how victims felt. He appeared to be a leader who could take accountability for his actions. When he visited, he called upon students to set a new standard and change cultural norms. Now, we’re calling upon him to have integrity and truly apologize to those he has hurt whether it was what he intended or not. If Biden is indeed thinking of running for the 2020 elections, then he will need to learn how to say sorry and truly mean it. The only way to win is to be who you say you are.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.