Former vice-president Joe Biden does not recall behaving inappropriately toward Lucy Flores at a 2014 political event in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to his spokesperson. In an essay published by the Cut on Friday, Flores wrote that Biden had made “blatantly inappropriate” contact with her at a rally supporting her campaign for lieutenant governor that year. She said that Biden, standing behind her while she was preparing to take the stage, placed his hands on her shoulders, leaned in close and “inhaled” her hair, and then slowly kissed the back of her head — an experience that left her feeling “mortified” and “powerless.” As Flores noted in her essay, and New York’s Rebecca Traister highlighted in another post on the Cut, Biden has initiated numerous weirdly close interactions with women over the years.
In a statement responding to Flores’s account, Biden spokesperson Bill Russo said that the vice-president had been “pleased to support” Flores’s campaign and “speak on her behalf at a well-attended public event,” but “neither then, nor in the years since, did he or the staff with him at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes.”
Biden, the statement continued, “believes that Ms. Flores has every right to share her own recollection and reflections, and that it is a change for better in our society that she has the opportunity to do so,” and the vice-president “respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.”
Flores responded to the statement in an interview with the New York Times, commenting that Biden “could have done a lot more to acknowledge how his behavior might have made me and the other women he has done that to feel.”
The story is also drawing a response from some of the candidates Biden would face if, as many expect, he decides to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. “I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer,” Senator Elizabeth Warren commented when asked about Flores’s essay on Saturday at the Heartland Forum in Iowa. Asked if she thought Biden shouldn’t run for president as a result, Warren insisted that decision was up to him.
Another contender at the event, Julián Castro, said he also believed Flores, noted Biden’s statement, and added that “we need to live in a nation where we can hear her truth.”
Two other candidates attending the forum, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative John Delaney, said they hadn’t read Flores’s essay yet.