This has been a running gag on the right for a long time. Even CNN has reported on Joe Biden’s penchant for awkward hugs but today may be the first time a Democratic woman has specifically called out Biden for his handsy behavior in a way that treats it as a #MeToo problem, not an amusing quirk. Today the Cut published a piece by Lucy Flores who, in 2014, was a nominee for Lt. Gov. of Nevada. When she first learned that Biden would be willing to come to the state and stump for her campaign, she was thrilled. But that changed after an awkward moment waiting to go on stage:
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. 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….
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.
Flores adds that if this had happened in a traditional office setting, she would have gone to HR and filed a complaint. But what do you do when there’s no HR department and the person who grabbed you is the Vice President of the United States? She considered when or if was the right to say anything at all and for a long time she said nothing. Meanwhile, there were other incidents that made the news. That image above is Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s wife Stephanie getting manhandled back in 2015.
Remember this? This would have been before the incident described by Flores but it’s the same move. In this case, it’s not clear the female biker minded but look at the faces of the other two guys.
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) September 9, 2012
Flores decided that with Biden’s pending run for office, now was the time to come forward. She says Biden didn’t break any laws in their encounter but she feels that his behavior is predicated on the imbalance of power that is so often involved in incidents of sexual harassment. Again, this behavior is far from a secret. It has happened so many times that almost every news outlet has covered it at some point and there are dozens of “Creepy Joe Biden” supercuts on YouTube. What’s different now is that Flores is asking the left to take this behavior seriously as something that is potentially disqualifying for office. We’ll see how seriously the party decided to take this. My guess: It will depend on how Biden is doing in the polls.
Update: A statement from Biden’s spokesman.
Biden spox statement on the NY mag piece pic.twitter.com/73IkByoosK
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) March 29, 2019
Update: I didn’t mention it above but the full piece mentions that Flores told a friend about the situation (someone in Biden’s orbit) who she says discouraged her from coming forward and made her doubt her own memory. That person wasn’t identified in the piece but he has now outed himself to tell his side of the story.
Lucy Flores published an essay today about an encounter she had in 2014 with Vice President Biden at a campaign event which I helped organize. In her essay she references a conversation between us. I feel that I must respond, and offer my thoughts here respectfully. pic.twitter.com/N9NJYGJ2n7
— Cristóbal Alex (@CristobalJAlex) March 29, 2019
So he’s undercutting her credibility by suggesting he has a different recollection of what he said and of the event. Why say all this when he wasn’t named in the story? It seems a bit odd. Maybe other reporters were asking him for comment and he felt he’d better speak before he was outed? In any case, why would anyone feel any need to doubt Flores’ story? We’ve seen Biden do this exact move on camera many times. There’s a picture of him doing it above.