Democrats taking part in the Heartland Forum event in Storm Lake, Iowa, over the weekend weighed in on a woman’s allegations that former Vice President Joe Biden acted inappropriately in an encounter in 2014 when she was a candidate for Nevada’s lieutenant governor.
“I believe Lucy Flores,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said.
“And Joe Biden needs to answer for it,” Warren said in a DesMoines Register article.
Flores wrote an essay about her experience with Biden in New York Magazine’s “the Cut” last week where she recalled when she was a 35-year-old candidate for state office and was backstage at an event with Biden.
Flores wrote, in part:
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.
“Asked whether Biden should choose not to run for president, given the allegation, Warren said, ‘That’s for Joe Biden to decide,’” the Register reported.
Biden has been expected to jump into the 2020 presidential ring but has not yet officially announced.
But Biden spokesman Bill Russo issued a statement saying the former vice president does not remember the incident Flores described.
“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,” the statement said.
Other Democrats also expressed support for Flores.
“I believe Lucy Flores. I believe that the vice president put a statement out today on that,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said to reporters in Iowa. “And we need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.”
“Do you think it disqualifies him for the presidency?” a reporter asked Castro.
“He’s going to decide whether he’s going to run or not and then the American people if he does, will decide whether they support him or not,” Castro said.
John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland and presidential candidate, said he had not yet read the full details of Flores’ allegation.
“I’ve heard about them,” Delaney said. “I don’t know the details.”
“I have no reason to doubt the woman, who I think was a state representative or ran for lieutenant governor,” Delaney said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also said she had not read Flores’s essay and “did not have anything to add,” the Register reported.
An article in the Atlantic published on Saturday said that if Biden was already a candidate, Flores’ claims may have been handled differently:
Here’s how an incident such as the Flores story might have played out, had there been a Biden campaign in place, in ways that are standard in presidential politics though rarely discussed publicly: Potentially even before the story ran but certainly as soon as it did, reporters covering the campaign closely would have heard from an aide, offering rebuttals and context.
Maybe the aide would have pointed out that Flores was a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, and a board member of his allied group Our Revolution until resigning last year, or that she spent Saturday morning in El Paso at the kickoff rally for Beto O’Rourke. Maybe the aide would have helped connect reporters with people who were also there that day at the Latino Victory Project event in Las Vegas, several of whom have been talking with one another since the story ran and questioning whether what Flores wrote could be true, because she was never alone with Biden, according to one of the people who’s been in the discussions.
But Flores pushed back on the Atlantic’s scenario in a text to the magazine:
“My piece does not say I was alone with him. It clearly says Eva [Longoria] was in front of me, Biden was behind me, as we were lined up and waiting to be called on stage. Of course no one says I was alone with him because I never was alone with him and I have never claimed to have been alone with him,” she said, adding, “I have also stated many times on the record that I am not supporting any candidate right now and I am listening and evaluating all the candidates just like everyone else. I’m allowed to go to a candidate rally.”
In my years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have 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. 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.
Biden has been at the top of many 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful polls in recent weeks.
Correction: An earlier version of this article identified the event in Storm Lake, Iowa, as the Heartland Institute. The event was called the Heartland Forum.