Former Vice President Joe Biden, accused of inappropriately touching and kissing a former Nevada lawmaker in 2014, is facing his own #MeToo moment ahead of a likely 2020 run.
After the ex-state official, Democrat Lucy Flores, came forward with the allegations on Friday, a number of Democrats raised concerns this weekend about Biden’s campaign with many saying they believe her accusation.
Biden said in a statement today that he has “offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” but doesn’t believe he ever acted inappropriately.
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” he added.
But in the #MeToo era, Biden is likely to face ongoing questions over the alleged incident, which serves as an early test for a campaign that has yet to officially launch.
Flores said in an essay published Friday in New York Magazine’s The Cut that Biden touched her shoulders and kissed the back of her head before a Nevada campaign event in 2014.
“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?'” she wrote.
“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,” she added.
Appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Flores called on Biden to “acknowledge that it was wrong.”
She also said she believes the alleged incident is “disqualifying” for a presidential run but added that “it’s up to everybody else to make that decision.”
In his statement today, Biden said, “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.”
“I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own. And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.”
The accusation against Biden comes as he is considering a bid for president in 2020.
He is expected to announce his decision as soon as April.
Other Democrats — including several of Biden’s 2020 rivals — stopped short of calling the accusation disqualifying today, though they indicated they believe Flores and that Biden needs to face more questions.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said 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.
Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, and said he too “had no reason not to believe” Flores’ account.
“I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country and to create environments where women feel comfortable and feel safe and that’s something we have got to do,” Sanders said.
Asked if he thought, like Flores, that the allegation was disqualifying for Biden, Sanders said it was a decision for Biden to make.
A new Emerson College poll in Nevada shows Biden leading the Democratic primary race with 26% support, followed by Sanders at 23%, Beto O’Rourke at 10%, Warren at 10%, Kamala Harris at 9%, and Pete Buttigieg at 5%.