On Friday, Lucy Flores, a former member of the Nevada Assembly, recounted how Joe Biden made her feel “powerless” when he came up behind her, planted a kiss on her head, and smelled her hair without warning and without her consent.
It took Biden’s camp—it’s worth emphasizing that he’s not even officially running for president yet—a couple days to respond, but when he did, it came in the form of a promise to “pay attention” to stories like Flores’. Notably absent was an apology or any admission of wrongdoing. As the New York Times’ Amanda Hess aptly pointed out, this is a politically sly way forward for Biden: It feels increasingly likely that we’re only going to hear more of these stories as the campaign continues, so it’s savvy to acknowledge the woman so bravely telling her truth while eliding the fact that Biden clearly believes she is blowing things out of proportion.
The inevitable defenses of Biden came soon after. They ranged from predictable—not every hug is a #MeToo moment, Biden hugged me and it was fine!!—to absolutely conspiratorial. All of these defenses are bad, and you shouldn’t waste a moment’s energy deploying them in service of the former vice president.
Over at The View, the ladies reached a rare consensus: Flores is full of it, and something is definitely rotten in the state of Vermont.
“It’s a long way from smelling your hair to grabbing your hoo-ha,” Joy Behar offered. Abby Huntsman said she’s always forced to “wonder” about the “motive” of the accuser when “these things” come out. Whoopi Goldberg came out of the box with perhaps the strongest showing, asking why Flores didn’t tell one of the most powerful Democrats in the country to knock it off while excusing Biden as “a hands-on kind of guy.”
There was more explaining away by liberals, who aren’t keen to see Uncle Joe dragged through the mud this way:
On Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski vowed to “listen” while turning our attention to the CONSPIRACY that could be at play here: Flores supported Sanders in 2016 and served on the board of Our Revolution, the Sanders-backing advocacy group. “Are we allowed to bring up that Lucy Flores is a huge Bernie person?” she asked this morning, nullifying her own question.
Things have gotten still more unsavory from there.
And finally, let’s hear it from failed #NeverTrump-er Rick Wilson, who seems pretty upset that CNN isn’t booking him as often anymore:
Ah, it’s the media training a woman possibly underwent before accusing a king-making Democrat of inappropriate physical contact that makes you disbelieve her. Oh no, it’s actually her support for Sanders—they’re playing dirty now, and our guy isn’t even in the race yet!—that betrays her true intentions. And then the rush to false equivalencies with Donald Trump, a man who’s admitted to sexually assaulting women, with Biden’s behavior. I say for the millionth time: What if two dissimilar things could both be bad, but to different degrees?
These lines of defense are as shoddy and craven as they are telling about the people taking them up. This is the best you’ve got? We believe women but not when they come for our guy?
Biden has probably done this countless times in his political career, with plenty of these moments caught on film. A photo doesn’t always give us the full story: One of the most cringeworthy pictures of this behavior in recent memory was of Biden massaging Stephanie Carter, wife of former defense secretary Ash Carter, at her husband’s swearing-in in 2015. Carter wrote on Medium on Sunday, in an effort to “reclaim” her story, that Biden was simply offering support in a stressful moment. We should listen to her telling of her experience like we listen to Flores. But the last people we need to hear from about this are Joe Biden’s defenders. I can’t imagine sticking your neck out for this guy about this issue. But if that’s the hill you want to die on, there doesn’t seem to be much that any woman could say to change your mind.