President Biden raised eyebrows Friday when he praised former Senator Chris Dodd — and inadvertently referenced a notorious episode of alleged sexual assault involving the Connecticut Democrat and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Biden lauded his longtime Senate colleague during remarks dedicating the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, saying he measures a person’s character by how they treat workers in the service industry.
“People who tell me they care about people and then disrespect the waitress or a waiter. People who tell me they care about how, in fact, people are entitled to be treated with dignity and walk by someone at a shoeshine stand and doesn’t say ‘hello.’ People who do not do the just simply decent things for ordinary people. That’s the real measure.”
“I’ve never seen Chris, figuratively or — speaking, walk by anybody,” Biden said.
The “disrespect the waitress” line was an unfortunate choice of words given Dodd and Kennedy’s alleged sickening actions at Capitol Hill restaurant La Brasserie in December 1985.
According to an account published by GQ magazine in 1990, the senators asked for waitress Carla Gavglio while their dates were in the bathroom. When she arrived, the article said, “the six-foot-two, 225-plus-pound Kennedy grabs the five-foot-three, 103-pound waitress and throws her on the table,” sending plates, glasses and cutlery flying.
Then, the magazine reported, Kennedy allegedly picked up Gaviglio and threw her again, this time on to the seated Dodd.
“With Gaviglio on Dodd’s lap, Kennedy jumps on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair,” reads the article, which adds that the assault was interrupted by another waitress, who had served Kennedy, Dodd and their dates. After the women’s screams drew at least one dishwasher to the scene, Kennedy allegedly attempted to laugh the grotesque display off as Gaviglio fled.
The senators and their dates left soon after, but not before the men had what GQ called “a friendly argument” over the bill.
The same article quoted a former La Brasserie waitress describing Dodd and Kennedy, who died in 2009, as “drinkers’ drinkers” who “would stay at the restaurant till three o’clock in the morning, just drinking and drinking. By the time they got up, they could hardly stand.”
The so-called “waitress sandwich” incident had no effect on Dodd’s political fortunes. He left the Senate in 2011 after 30 years in the chamber and went on to become the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a post he held for another six years before stepping down in September 2017.
Two months after Dodd left the MPAA, Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reflected on the reported La Brasserie incident, writing: “Why does anyone wonder why the victims of such attacks remain silent for so long? The power is all on one side. Few were inclined 30 years ago to call what happened that night an assault. Certainly no one was going to be punished. Instead, it was given a name to turn it into a joke.”
In May 2020, then-candidate Biden tapped Dodd to co-chair his vice presidential selection committee, a move that shocked Gaviglio.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking, choosing someone like that,” she told The Post at the time, latter adding: “I don’t think it was a great idea and I think they could have done a little bit better. There’s so many people out there and why they had to make that choice is a little confounding.”
Gaviglio went on to say that while she blamed Kennedy for much of her trauma resulting from that night, “would it have killed [Dodd] to say, ‘I’m so sorry about what happened last night, I really apologize’?
“That would have been nice. It certainly would have been appropriate.”