Joe Biden left an Iowa teacher unimpressed with his canned response to her question about collective bargaining, but what she resented more was how he abruptly seized her hands and clung onto them.
Jessica Roman, 41, had stopped Biden, 76, as he greeted voters on Monday during the Hawkeye Area Labor Council’s Labor Day picnic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The North Liberty preschool teacher, who works with special needs children, was pressing the former vice president on his plans to help unionized members of her profession under recent changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws when he reached for her hands.
“I think that he means well but, you know, he grabbed my hands right away and that was really uncomfortable,” she said. “He was very close and, in my mind, I’m like, this is part of our problem: Not recognizing that you need to ask first, or can I shake your hand? Not just grab your hands and hang onto them. That bothers me.”
Roman, who is leaning toward caucusing for California Sen. Kamala Harris or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, wanted a more detailed answer to her question about collective bargaining in Iowa, which has a restrictive framework similar to Wisconsin. It was “a very well-rehearsed list” that “didn’t really speak” to her inquiry, she said.
Biden has been accused by at least eight women of touching them without permission. Amid a furor over the allegations, he said that he accepted that “social norms are changing,” adding: “I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility, and I will meet it.” His wife Jill said that his unwanted contact “won’t happen again.” Days after his vow to change, however, Biden joked about the allegations.
Despite repeated advice from his staff, Biden still routinely touches women and children at events, whether they like it or not. A spokesman for the campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Roman told reporters she had major doubts about Biden’s candidacy, his third bid for the White House. “I wouldn’t say it’s something that I didn’t like but, you know, I’m in my 40s, I’m raising a teenager, I work with very young families, and he’s not relevant,” she said.
“It’s been too long since he’s raised a family, too long since he’s lived on a normal paycheck. I want somebody that actually gets it, that understands what it is to live on the paychecks that we live on, the housing crisis that we have, all of the ways that those things affect us.”
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