It used to be possible for the media to offer reasonably confident predictions about how a particular news story might affect a politician’s public image. Maybe that was because media figures were engaging in self-fulfilling prophesy by deciding whether and how to cover missteps; maybe it was because there used to be a relationship between what a politician did and what people thought of him or her. But whatever the underlying mechanism was, it became clear on Nov. 8, 2016 that the old system had been replaced while none of us were paying attention. Which is to say that it’s impossible to predict how the latest allegations of Joe Biden being creepy around women will affect his political career, because if Donald Trump can win an election, anyone can.
But if we assume—and maybe we shouldn’t, given that people are still pissed off about Al Franken—that the left is becoming slightly less willing to make excuses for people on their own team, then it seems important that Lucy Flores’ story about Joe Biden has made its way to The Daily Show, and that Trevor Noah is not acting like there’s a legitimate controversy over whether or not Biden’s past behavior has been creepy.
There are already plenty of people rushing to Biden’s defense in one way or another, whether they’re explicitly tweeting about how nice he is like Alyssa Milano did today, or describing Biden’s behavior as an “affectionate, physical style” instead of “a habit of entering women’s personal space and occasionally smelling their hair.” Noah’s not here for people who say Flores might be telling the truth about what happened, but that what happened wasn’t all that creepy:
“That sounds super creepy.” And even though she says it wasn’t sexual at all, it clearly made her uncomfortable. And it’s definitely not okay, I mean, smelling hair is always weird, all right? I don’t care who it is. Even if you’re in a relationship, if you smell your girlfriend’s hair, she won’t say anything, but in her head, she’ll be like, “Is he a serial killer?” Like, honestly, smelling hair is one of the creepiest things you can do. It’s on the list of creepy things—it’s right after collecting doll parts and sneezing with your eyes open.
If that becomes the conventional wisdom, Biden should be done, allowing for the very large caveat that Trump should have been done too, unless people don’t think “getting spanked by a porn star with an issue of Forbes that has your kids on the cover” is creepy. In other words, nobody knows anything, and there are many other reasons Biden shouldn’t be running. But while we wait to see how this shakes out, maybe don’t go around smelling other people’s hair.