The former Nevada lawmaker who accused Joe Biden of giving her an “awkward kiss” in 2014 said Sunday she decided to go public because she wanted to force Democrats to confront his inappropriate behavior as the former vice president decides to run for the White House.
“It’s so easy to Google ‘Creepy Biden’ and you get all these compilations of pictures and video evidence of young women and women looking very, very uncomfortable,” Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman and 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, told POLITICO.
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Flores said she initially kept quiet about the incident — in which she said Biden approached her from behind at a political event, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head without her permission — because of a “general fear of retribution and backlash and judgment and all the things that happen to women who speak out against powerful men.”
But the #MeToo movement and Biden’s serious consideration of a presidential run changed her mind. Her friends and political allies in Nevada were talking to Biden and his associates about his potential bid this month. And the pictures and video clips of Biden hugging women, caressing their hair and holding on to their shoulders in too-familiar ways began surfacing on social media.
“When I started to see pictures of him behaving in the same way he did with me and with other women, it was very triggering,” she said. “I felt so much empathy for them. I knew what they were going through. I had been in their shoes.”
Flores said the Democratic nominee will need to differentiate herself or himself from President Trump, whom she described “as a full-on sexual harasser, misogynist and probably sexual assaulter” who is far worse than Biden.
But Biden’s baggage makes it harder to draw a sharp break with Trump, Flores said.
“You get in the race-to-the bottom conversation when you are discussing degrees of bad. And that’s never a good thing,” she said. “It makes the conversation a little more difficult because then you are getting into the, ‘Well, it’s not as bad. It’s bad but it’s not that bad.’ Or you force people to say, ‘That’s not bad at all.’ And I’m saying yes it is. It is bad.”
Biden’s camp did not reply to the particulars of Flores’ new statements, but it did point to a new Medium post from Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said a picture of Biden holding her by her shoulders at an event was innocent and that he “kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support.”
Previously, Biden’s aides have issued two carefully worded statements about Flores’ accusations.
The latter, released before the Sunday TV political shows, asserted that he “offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. 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.
“I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear,” he added. “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.”
A slew of Democratic candidates for president said they believed Flores, while allies of Biden tried to discredit her.
Flores said Biden’s second statement was better than the first, but “by him saying that never ever did he believe his behavior was inappropriate is still a big problem because it’s really hard for me to believe that after so many years of the same type of behavior and so many pictures and so many videos that someone didn’t at some point didn’t say to him, ‘You should stop behaving this way.’”
Biden has not called Flores to discuss the matter, and she said she doesn’t expect him to.
Biden has sounded contrite before without following up. In 2017, he said he owed an apology to Anita Hill for the way he, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, handled her sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But as of 2018, Hill told Elle magazine, Biden hadn’t called her.
“‘He said, ‘I owe her an apology.’ People were asking, ‘When are you going to apologize to her?’”’ Hill told the publication. “It’s become sort of a running joke in the household when someone rings the doorbell and we’re not expecting company. ‘Oh,’ we say, ‘Is that Joe Biden coming to apologize?’”
Biden last week offered another public apology to Hill and expressed regret about the way her hearing was handled. But Flores said that statement, too, lacked substance.
“His recent comment of him saying he wishes he could have done more is so lacking in responsibility,” she said. “To suggest that, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he could not have done more, is just false.”
Flores said she knew Biden’s allies would attack her after she came forward, but she’s also been encouraged by the support she’s received, too.
“We’re talking about invasion of your bodily space, of your privacy, agency over your own body and who gets to touch it and how we ought to feel around very, very powerful men and how those powerful men should behave,” she said. “This is not new, this is something that we have known for a very long time. And it was just never addressed with the seriousness that it deserves. I feel like that’s progress.”