In his first 2020 campaign visit to Iowa, former vice president Joe Biden found himself in a heated discussion about his record on supporting women, ending with his finger in the face of Wisconsin womxn’s activist K.C. Cayo.
Cayo posted a screenshot from the video of the interaction on Twitter at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday, which garnered nearly 20,000 likes within the first 24 hours after being posted and has since surpassed that mark.
Told Biden we need someone stronger on reproductive justice, and after his reversal on the Hyde Amendment, we asked him to protect assault survivors. He said “nobody has spoken about it, done more, or changed more than I have”. I told him we deserve better. pic.twitter.com/YDtS4Ehs2d— K.C. (@thelocalmaniac8) June 11, 2019
A clarifying point: this was absolutely and undeniably an intimidation tactic. He leaned forward, raised his voice, tried to grab my arm with his free hand. For a hot sec I thought he was going to hit me. Don’t make excuses for his actions in my comments anymore pls & thank https://t.co/OyXFJqIEAY— K.C. (@thelocalmaniac8) June 12, 2019
Cayo said they — along with a group of activists concerned about the structure of the Supreme Court — approached Biden with intent to ask him about his plan for “protecting the court” as well as his record on women’s rights. After being asked about how he would reform the Supreme Court, Cayo said Biden turned away from the group.
“I reached out and shook his hand so he couldn’t go anywhere right away .. and said, ‘okay, it’s great that you want to do something, but we were at the Kavanaugh hearings, and we’re very concerned about your positions on abortion and the Hyde Amendment because they’re very problematic,” Cayo said.
At this point, Cayo said Biden began to object.
“I only got to say that first part, and then he got mad,” Cayo said. “He raised his voice a little bit. He leaned really close, furrowed his brow. He tried to grab my hand again after I had let go.”
The Biden campaign did not respond to interview requests.
Cayo said in his defense, Biden referenced his work on the Violence Against Women Act and told them, “nobody has spoken about [women’s rights], done more, or changed more than I have, out of any candidate in this race.”
Biden was a sponsor on the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which strengthened investigative and prosecutorial powers in violent crimes against women. However, Cayo said their concerns were largely centered in more recent issues.
Cayo said their group has been approaching presidential candidates throughout the 2020 election season to ask about their plans for the Supreme Court, but with Biden, the group had specific concerns about his stance on the Hyde Amendment — which bars Medicaid funds from paying for abortions except to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest — and accusations of inappropriate touching against Biden.
Lucy Flores, who ran for lieutenant governor of Nevada in 2014, said before one of the final speeches of her campaign, the then-vice president approached her from behind and kissed the back of her head,making her uncomfortable. Other women have made similar claims.
"Since I saw that face on him, I just thought, ‘Wow. If anyone didn’t believe [the women] before, they could just see this and see the entitlement, and I bet they would believe it now,” Cayo said. “I really hope it does something.”
Cayo said they have received a lot of online support, particularly from survivors of sexual assault, and although they didn't intend to have a "gotcha moment," they are glad they're still spreading their message.
“I really didn’t expect this response, but it seems like my story, as a survivor and as a protester, resonates with a lot of different other survivors and other people,” Cayo said. “I’m just really amazed at the way this has happened.”
Biden currently leads the pack of Democratic presidential hopefuls in Iowa, but his margin has been diminishing throughout the past six months. A recent poll found that Biden is the first choice of 24% of likely caucus goers — down from 32% in December and 27% in March.