Former vice president and unofficial Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement Sunday responding to allegations by former Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores that he inappropriately touched and kissed her while she ran for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Flores recounted the incident in a column published Friday by The Cut.
Since then, Biden’s camp appears to be struggling in its response as the story continues to receive coverage throughout the weekend. A Biden spokesman issued a statement on Saturday, and then Biden issued his own statement on Sunday.
In it, the former vice president vowed to “listen respectfully” to the allegations, but did not acknowledge his alleged behavior or apologize for it. Instead, he rationalized it as part of the “countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” he has given in his “many years on the campaign trail and in public life.”
“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,” Biden’s statement said.
Former Biden staffer Cynthia Hogan also released a statement Sunday titled “The Joe Biden I Know.” Hogan noted that Biden had promoted several women to leadership roles and “treated us with respect and insisted that others do the same.”
While this may be true, it doesn’t negate the alleged incident that Flores describes, which she said had made her feel “powerless.”
According to Flores’ account, Biden attended a campaign rally three days before the 2014 election to support her candidacy for lieutenant governor. She said the following happened at the event:
…As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. “Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?”
I felt him get closer to me from behind. 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 fuck? 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…
The New York Times reported that the organizer of that rally, Henry R. Munoz III, stated on Saturday night that he couldn’t find evidence that Biden and Flores were alone during the event. On Sunday, Flores called Munoz’s statement “entirely irrelevant” because she never said they were alone. She urged Munoz to reread her column.
Flores also responded to Biden’s new statement, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the alleged incident “was shocking.” “You don’t expect that kind of intimate behavior,” she said.
“I felt powerless,” she added. “Frankly, what do you say? Who do you tell?”
She noted that the encounter wasn’t “the first time, and it wasn’t the only incident where [Biden] was acting inappropriately with women...I think that’s a little bit of a disconnect.”
While Flores believes Biden’s alleged behavior disqualifies him as a potential candidate, she said, “It’s up to everybody else to make that decision.”
She also offered Biden some advice: “You should probably keep your hands to yourself.”
Other Democratic candidates also weighed over the weekend, saying nearly unanimously that they believe Flores.
In Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Saturday that the former vice president should respond to the allegations, the Times reported.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on ABC’s This Week that there’s “no reason not to believe” Flores.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders said on CBS’ Face the Nation that he’s not certain “one incident alone disqualifies anybody,” and that it is up to voters to decide.
Biden is expected to announce his candidacy in April. Thanks to name recognition, he has led early polls among the Democratic hopefuls. It remains to be seen whether this accusation will affect those numbers, although it’s still way early in the race.