Sen. Susan Collins defended former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Tuesday, saying in her years of serving with him she never saw the kind of behavior two women have accused him of.
“I’ve known Joe Biden for so many years, and he is a very friendly, affectionate individual who is a natural toucher — never found him to be inappropriate,” the Maine Republican told reporters.
As Mr. Biden prepares for a 2020 presidential campaign, two women have come forward in recent days to detail uncomfortable encounters over the last decade. One woman said the then-vice president smelled her hair, and another said he grabbed her face and then rubbed noses with her.
For his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, his behavior has left them trying to walk a tight line.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, dodged giving his opinion about a man he served with for a decade.
“The voters will weigh the pros and cons and decide for themselves,” Mr. Schumer told reporters. “Everyone deserves to be heard, so I salute the women who have come forward to tell their stories.”
Mr. Biden put out a statement after the first woman’s accusation became public last week in which he denied any sinister behavior.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately,” Mr. Biden said.
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, told Politico the vice president’s actions should not disqualify him from running for president.