[guest post by Dana]
Hoo-boy. For years I’ve railed about Joe Biden’s creepy handsiness when it comes to women other than his wife. While I’m not the least bit surprised that a former politician has accused Biden of kissing her on the campaign trail in 2014, I am surprised that she is publicly speaking out about it and not giving him cover for his bad behavior like powerful Democrats have done for years. And if everyday Americans have noticed the former vice-president’s incessant handsiness with women, then you know that everyone from President Obama to Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton to Loretta Lynch and everyone else who has worked with Biden, also knew. But to my knowledge, no one has come forward to make a direct and public complaint. Until now.
From Lucy Flores writing in The Cut:
…when my campaign heard from Vice-President Joe Biden’s office that he was looking to help me and other Democrats in the state, I was grateful and flattered. His team offered to bring him to a campaign rally in an effort to help boost voter turnout. We set the date for November 1, just three days before election day.I found my way to the holding room for the speakers, where everyone was chatting, taking photos, and getting ready to speak to the hundreds of voters in the audience. Just before the speeches, we were ushered to the side of the stage where we were lined up by order of introduction. 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. [Ed. Seriously? Your concern was that you hadn’t washed your hair and it didn’t smell pretty for the veep? Oh. Come. On.] 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. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused. There is a Spanish saying, “tragame tierra,” it means, “earth, swallow me whole.” I couldn’t move and I couldn’t say anything. I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me. My name was called and I was never happier to get on stage in front of an audience.
By then, as a young Latina in politics, I had gotten used to feeling like an outsider in rooms dominated by white men. But I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate and unnerving before. Biden was the second-most powerful man in the country and, arguably, one of the most powerful men in the world. He was there to promote me as the right person for the lieutenant governor job. Instead, he made me feel uneasy, gross, and confused. The vice-president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it.
Our strange interaction happened during a pivotal moment in my political career. I’d spent months raising money, talking to voters, and securing endorsements. Biden came to Nevada to speak to my leadership and my potential to be second-in-command — an important role he knew firsthand. But he stopped treating me like a peer the moment he touched me. Even if his behavior wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful. I wasn’t attending the rally as his mentee or even his friend; I was there as the most qualified person for the job.
Flores offers these parting thoughts:
I’m not suggesting that Biden broke any laws, but the transgressions that society deems minor (or doesn’t even see as transgressions) often feel considerable to the person on the receiving end. That imbalance of power and attention is the whole point — and the whole problem.
The timing of Flores’s revealing story is interesting given that its publication comes in the midst of Biden teasing-out and test-running a possible announcement for his candidacy in 2020. Not only is he being coy about running, but he also appears to be gauging every possible reaction to an announcement and making preemptive strikes accordingly (possibly asking Stacy Abrams a place on his ticket and promising to only serve for one term).
Flores explains why she is coming forward with her accusations now:
For years I feared my experience would be dismissed. Biden will be Biden. Boys will be boys. I worried about the doubts, the threats, the insults, and the minimization. “It’s not that big of a deal. He touched her, so what?” The immediate passing of judgement and the questioning of motives. “Why now? Why so long after? She just wants attention.” Or: “It’s politically motivated.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t carefully consider all of this before deciding to speak. But hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer.
It would be completely logical to assume that any forthcoming public accusation would indeed be dismissed, given that this has been the standard response by Democrats for years when it came to Biden and his inappropriate behavior with women. Ironically, Flores’s own party!
Bill Russo, a spokesman for Biden, responded to the accusation made by Flores:
“Vice President Biden was pleased to support Lucy Flores’s candidacy for lieutenant governor of Nevada in 2014 and to speak on her behalf at a well-attended public event.
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,
But Vice President Biden 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. He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.
As of yesterday, before this story broke, Biden held a comfortable lead over the other leading Dem candidates. Mind you, this is without even making an official announcement:
Former Vice President Joe Biden is out front in a poll by Quinnipiac University out Thursday, with 29% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters saying they’ll vote for him in the 2020 primary if he runs.
He is followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (19%), former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (12%), and Sen. Kamala Harris (8%), according to the Quinnipiac poll.
Oh, and I wanted to post this photo (via The Cut) of Biden standing between Lucy Flores and actress Eva Longoria at the event where the alleged kiss took place because it’s a perfect example of a question answering itself: Why would Biden have his hand up at the top of Longoria’s waist where he might accidentally feel the side of her breast?
UPDATE:Joe Biden released a statement in response to the accusations made against him by Flores:
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”
Also, as of today, several 2020 Democrat candidates have given public statements concerning Biden and Flores. None of them suggested that the accusation disqualifies Biden from running:
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Saturday she believes Flores, “and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said at the same Iowa event as Warren that he believed Flores. “We need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth,” Castro said.
…Sen. Bernie Sanders… said he too “had no reason not to believe” Flores’ account…
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, who said he is considering a presidential run, said… that Biden “does need to answer this.”
“I also just saw his statement,” Moulton said. “He said we need to listen to women, and he is right. We need to listen to women. The bottom line here is that women deserve the respect and the opportunity to share these stories, and it takes tremendous courage to do so, and that’s not easy, what she just did on TV. ”
Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on ABC’s “This Week” that she had “no reason not to believe her” and that Biden would have to continue to address the allegation if he joins the race.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)