Joe Biden said Wednesday that the onrush of companies pulling their commercials from The O’Reilly Factor is proof that the country has made progress combatting sexual violence.
The former vice president weighed in during a call with volunteers for the anti-rape It’s On Us campaign, his first public comments about combatting sexual violence since leaving office in January. Biden said that the nation's tolerance for putting up with sexual assault and harassment has changed significantly in recent years, and that can be measured by the public backlash to recent incidents involving celebrities.
“I won’t go into names," Biden said on the call, "but can you imagine Mercedes-Benz and other major sponsors pulling sponsorships from a major program because they don’t want to be associated with the person on the program because of matters relating to this issue?”
Biden was referring to the Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. At least 30 advertisers and sponsors have pulled their ads from The O’Reilly Factor this week following revelations that 21st Century Fox has paid out at least $13 million to five women to settle sexual harassment and verbal abuse complaints against the anchor. O'Reilly says the harassment claims have no merit, and that his celebrity makes him a target.
The former vice president made his comments about an hour after the New York Times published a story in which President Donald Trump defended O’Reilly.
“I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump told the Times, adding that O’Reilly is “a good person” and shouldn’t have settled the sexual harassment cases.
Biden also cited the widespread outrage two years ago over the video footage of NFL running back Ray Rice abusing his wife on an elevator as another example of progress combatting gender-based violence. If that had happened 10 years ago, Biden said, “it wouldn’t have mattered, but look what it did,” referring to continued public pressure for the NFL to improve how it deals with players committing domestic assaults.
During the Obama administration, Biden created the position of White House adviser on violence against women, and housed it in his office. There is no indication that the Trump White House is keeping the position.
Biden vowed to remain involved working on combating sexual violence after he left the White House. In February, he unveiled the Biden Foundation with his wife, Jill, that includes “Ending Violence Against Women” as one of the causes where the nonprofit will focus.
The anti-rape campaign It’s On Us was moved to a nonprofit last year so it could continue after the Obama administration. Biden’s call Wednesday was intended to motivate It’s On Us volunteers on college campuses.
“Here’s how I measure victory,” Biden said on the call. “When not a single solitary woman who is abused [or] violated, physically or mentally, asks herself ‘What did I do?’ It is never, never, never, never the woman’s fault. It is never the woman’s fault. No man has a right to abuse women, under any circumstances, period.”