Vice President Joe Biden raised some eyebrows Friday morning by praising former Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), who had to resign in 1995 amid sexual harassment charges, before the Democratic National Committee Women's Leadership Forum.
Biden, who is known for the occasional verbal gaffe, told the women's group that today's Republicans are "a different breed of cat," given their attempts to push for voter ID legislation and other policies Democrats oppose. In past, he said, many Republicans worked to expand access to the polls.
"It was Republicans who expanded access to the polls. It was Republicans in the Judiciary Committee that did motor-voter," Biden said.
"It's Republicans that were involved," he added. "Guys like Mac Mathias, Packwood and so many others. It wasn't Democrats alone." Mathias was a Republican from Maryland who retired in 1987.
Biden's audience made no noticeable reaction to the mention of Packwood's name, although Packwood is a well-known cautionary tale among groups that fight for women's rights. In 1992, several of Packwood's woman staffers and even some lobbyists accused him of sexual harassment and abuse.
Packwood won his election campaign in 1992, but was later dragged down by an investigation that forced him to turn over thousands of pages of his personal diary, many of which included details about his encounters with women. Along the way, Packwood was accused of editing portions of his diary to coverup some of his past episodes with women.
Packwood resigned in 1995, but he was featured in a few press stories earlier this year that said he is still working as a lobbyist at age 81.
Despite his mention of Packwood, Biden went on to encourage women to help Democratic women candidates win their elections this year and support the Obama administration as it tries to advance its agenda.
"All we're able to do right now is stop bad things from happening," he said. "That's useful, but it's not why we wanted the job. We wanted the job to do things, and we've done a lot."