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Biden told Clinton not to criticize Trump for the 'Access Hollywood' tape in debates because that 'just drags it down'

INSIDER logoINSIDER 9/8/2019 Sonam Sheth
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie © AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Former vice president Joe Biden said during a campaign event on Friday that he advised the former Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, against criticizing President Donald Trump for bragging about sexual assaulting women during the 2016 election.

A month before Election Day, the Trump campaign was thrown into a frenzy when a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced featuring Trump boasting about grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them without their consent.

"I think the biggest mistake that was made, and everyone underestimated it the last time about President Trump, the place he's most comfortable is in the gutter arguing," Biden told a supporter who asked how he would debate the bombastic president without sounding too aggressive.

Biden went on to talk about how he spoke with Clinton's team shortly before her second debate with Trump, which took place days after the "Access Hollywood" tape was released.

"I remember at the time saying, you know, the first question that's going to be asked is they're going to ask [Trump] about his comments about the 'Access Hollywood' tape," Biden said. "And I said, I really think what should be done is - that they're going to turn to [Clinton] and say, 'What's your view?'"

He added that he "respectfully" recommended that she respond by saying, "'Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Let me tell you what I am going to do for the country,' and not get into the debate, because it just drags it down."

Read more: Trump may have committed tax fraud by fabricating a loan to avoid paying income taxes on nearly $50 million

Biden's comments come as he faces continued criticism from progressives and feminist groups for his reluctance to address the problems with men's behavior toward women, especially in the workplace. The former vice president has himself been accused by multiple women of inappropriately touching them or invading their personal space throughout his political career.

Brian Fallon, who served as a senior aide on Clinton's campaign, told BuzzFeed News Biden's approach to addressing the "Access Hollywood" tape reflected a "Mad Men-era mentality."

"Is he suggesting Hillary's reaction to the 'Access Hollywood' tape should have been, 'Oh, never mind?'" Fallon asked.

A Biden aide responded to the criticism, telling the outlet he "wasn't criticizing Hillary. He was criticizing the media for creating false equivalencies that minimized Trump's atrocious and repugnant behavior."

Read more: Trump advisers are more worried about Elizabeth Warren than any other 2020 Democratic candidate

The media covered the tape extensively, as well as claims from more than a dozen women who accused the president, then a Republican candidate, of varying degrees of inappropriate behavior.

One of the most serious claims against Trump came after he took office, when the writer E. Jean Carroll said in June that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s.

"The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips," she wrote. "The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway - or completely, I'm not certain - inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle."

Carroll wrote that she physically fought Trump off of her and fled the scene of the encounter, which took "no more than three minutes."

Carroll's allegation is the most serious public sexual-misconduct accusation that has so far been made against the president, aside from Ivana Trump's 1990 accusation that Trump raped her in a fit of rage in 1989.

Eliza Relman contributed to this report.

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