Former Vice President Joe Biden is again in the spotlight for allegedly touching women inappropriately in public. Biden says it’s only “expressions of affection, support and comfort.” But several fellow Democrats are supporting former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores who claims Biden stood behind her backstage, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head.
In 2014, Flores was running for lieutenant governor and Biden had agreed to speak at one of her last events of the race.
“I felt him get closer to me from behind,” Flores writes in an op-ed published in The Cut on Friday.
“He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified.”
“I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual f**k? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?’”
“He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
Biden released a statement on Sunday. He said he’s given countless handshakes and hugs on the campaign trail.
“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.”
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” the statement continues.
He does not directly address the recent allegations, nor does he apologize.
In 2015, a photo went viral of Biden standing behind Stephanie Carter, wife of new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at his White House swearing-in ceremony. He was holding her by her shoulders and appeared to be whispering in her ear. Many said Biden appeared “creepy” in that moment.
But Carter wrote in a blog post on Friday that, that wasn’t the case: “He leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support. But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.”
Some are keeping tabs on Biden’s public exchanges with women, even compiling videos.
‘It was shocking’
Flores appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday and stood by the claims she made in the op-ed.
“Very unexpectedly and out of nowhere I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head. That, in and of itself, might not sound like it’s a very serious thing,” she told Jake Tapper.
“That… might sound like it was innocent and well-intentioned. But in the context of it, as a person who had absolutely no relationship with him afterwards, as a candidate who was preparing my case as to why I should be elected the second in command of that state, to have the vice president of the United States do that to me so unexpectedly and just kind of out of nowhere, it was just shocking.”
Flores also explained why she didn’t go pubic with the allegations at the time.
“You just kind of process it and then you move on, because you have a job to do… There just isn’t a mechanism to deal with it,” she said.
Even if she wanted to come forward, Flores said she didn’t know who she could tell.
“I felt powerless,” she said. “Frankly, what do you say? Who do you tell?”
In several 2020 presidential polls, Biden is leading, even though he hasn’t made a announcement on whether he plans to run for office.
Some Democratic presidential candidates are supporting Flores’ claims.
“I have no reason not to believe Lucy,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said on “Face the Nation.”
He was asked if the allegations should disqualify Biden from running for president.
“I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”
At an Iowa event on Saturday, both Julian Castro and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) backed Flores.
“I read the op-ed last night,” Warren said. “I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said that “we need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.”