Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that former vice president Joe Biden still has work to do on changing his behavior toward women, citing recent episodes on the campaign trail as showing that “there may be some discomfort” with Biden’s actions.
Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman lawmaker who rode a wave of enthusiasm from the left to victory in last year’s midterms, weighed in on Biden during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think that’s something that he has to kind of show the electorate,” Ocasio-Cortez said, asked whether she believes Biden understands the concerns that have been raised about his behavior. “You know, I think that it is an issue where there is a struggle; I’ll be completely honest.”
Biden is leading in early polls for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod, although some polling suggests that liberal enthusiasm might be depressed if Biden wins the nomination.
After several women spoke out about interactions in which Biden had touched them in ways they said were not appropriate, the former vice president in April released a two-minute video defending his past behavior but also pledging that he would be “mindful” of people’s boundaries going forward.
“The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying, and I understand it,” Biden said in the video. “I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility, and I’ll meet it.”
But some of Biden’s recent interactions at campaign events have brought renewed attention to his actions.
At a town hall last month, Biden told a 10-year-old girl, “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking.” He then brought her over to the assembled reporters, stood behind her and put his hands on her shoulders as he spoke.
And at an event at an Iowa coffeeshop last week, the Boston Globe reported, upon meeting a voter’s 13-year-old granddaughter, Biden told the girl’s brothers, “You’ve got one job here: Keep the guys away from your sister.”
Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that while she would not describe Biden’s behavior as “incredibly severe” or tantamount to sexual misconduct, the recent incidents gave her pause.
“I do think that there may be some discomfort, especially seeing some clips this week and, you know, week before — telling a 13-year-old, telling her brothers to watch out for her,” she said. “I think there are some things with female voters that it’s just not quite locked down.”
Pressed on whether she thinks Biden has conveyed that he “gets it,” Ocasio-Cortez responded, “I don’t think he’s necessarily convinced all women.”
She also said that Democrats “probably” made a mistake in not criticizing former president Bill Clinton for his treatment of women over the years, although she argued, “I wouldn’t look at this through a partisan lens.”
“I think that this is part of an evolution that we’ve been having as a country,” she said. “Women have historically been mistreated. I don’t think that that is really a controversial thing to say.”
Before her election to the House, the New York Democrat hit the campaign trail last year with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for liberal candidates across the country. But Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that Sanders has not asked for her endorsement for president and that it is too early for her to back a candidate in the race.
Some liberals have criticized Biden for suggesting that he could bring Republicans along to work with him if elected president, even though GOP lawmakers were resistant during the Obama administration, including denying the president a Supreme Court pick.
She also said that if Biden wins the nomination, it will be “absolutely important that we defeat Donald Trump.” She cautioned, though, that her party should not repeat the mistake of the last presidential election., during which “people felt worse about both candidates in 2016 than they have in a very long time.” “When it comes to who we select as a presidential candidate, we have to really factor in the enthusiasm of voters,” she said. “I think that was an issue that we had in 2016.”