- Democratic officials and activists began voicing their support for former Vice President Joe Biden after two women publicly accused him of making unwanted physical contact.
- Biden said he did not believe he had acted inappropriately towards his accusers.
Democratic officials and activists began voicing their support for former Vice President Joe Biden after two women publicly accused him of making unwanted physical contact with them years ago.
Last week, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman and the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada, alleged that Biden grasped her shoulders and kissed the back of her head during a campaign event.
“He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head,” she wrote in New York Magazine. “My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
“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,” she continued. “That imbalance of power and attention is the whole point – and the whole problem.”
Following Flores’ account, Amy Lappos, a former congressional aide for Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, alleged on Monday that Biden grabbed her head to rub noses during a 2009 fundraiser.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Lappos said in an interview with The Hartford Courant. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
Biden said he did not believe he had acted inappropriately towards his accusers.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support, and comfort,” he said in a statement. “And not once did I ever believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully because it was never my intention.”
His spokesman Bill Russo also pushed back against two photos of Biden that have been shared in recent days; Russo (and one of the women in one of the images) said they are “misrepresentations.”
“But the important conversation about these issues are not advanced, nor are any criticisms of Vice President Biden validated, by the continued misrepresentation of the Carter and Coons moments, or a failure to be vigilant about a cottage industry of lies,” Russo said in a statement.
Here’s what some Democratic lawmakers and activists are saying in light of the accusations against Joe Biden:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the allegations did not disqualify him from possibly running in the 2020 US presidential election.
“I don’t think that this disqualifies him from being president,” Pelosi said to reporters on Monday. “Not at all.”
Biden has been contemplating a run for the presidency in an already large field of Democratic candidates.
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice
Former national security adviser Susan Rice said that although the perspectives of women sharing uncomfortable experiences “must be heard and taken seriously,” the two allegations did not align with her interactions with Biden.
“I have worked closely with [Biden] for many years,” she said on Twitter. “In my experience, he is warm and affectionate with women (and men). But never have I found his actions inappropriate or uncomfortable.”
“Most importantly, I know [Biden] to be a dedicated ally, champion and defender of women and all of our rights,” Rice added. “There is no one I would rather be with in a foxhole. He is one of the most decent, honorable men I have been privileged to work with.”
Rice served as the White House’s national security adviser from 2013 to 2017, when former President Barack Obama and Biden were in office.
Actress and activist Alyssa Milano
Actress and women’s rights activist Alyssa Milano defended Biden amid the accusations.
“I am proud to call Joe Biden a friend,” Milano said in a series of tweets. “He has been a leader and a champion on fighting violence against women for many years, and I have been fortunate to accompany him to events with survivors where he has listened to their stories, empathized with them, and comforted them.”
“Joe Biden’s response that he never meant to make anyone uncomfortable and that he’ll listen and learn from anyone who says otherwise is exactly the leadership we need to build a culture where women are heard and are equal,” Milano added.
Milano, an outspoken activist and supporter of the #MeToo movement, said she respected Flores’ decision to tell her story, and that her views of Biden did not diminish Flores’ accusation.
“I respect Lucy Flores’ decision to share her story and agree with Biden that we all must pay attention to it,” Milano said on Twitter. “But, just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same.”
“I believe that Joe Biden’s intent has never been to make anyone uncomfortable, and that his kind, empathetic leadership is what our country needs. Especially now,” she added.
Valerie Jarrett, former White House senior adviser
Former White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett described Biden’s response to the accusations as “very important,” during an interview with CBS News.
“I thought he hit it just right,” she said of Biden’s statement.
Jarrett, who is an advocate for gender equality, focused on Biden’s underlying message of listening to the accusers’ message.
The former official denied having witnessed the alleged behaviour during her tenure at the White House, but added that it was important “not whether I witnessed it, but how … these women feel.”
“It isn’t just their intent,” Jarrett said of men who unintentionally may have behaved similarly towards women. “It’s like how does it affect the person who was impacted by it? And listening is a way to have better understanding.”
“And so I appreciate the fact that he said men, and not just himself, but men generally, have to start listening. I think that’s a step in the right direction.”
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