- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden sought over the weekend to defend himself after being accused of inappropriately touching, smelling and kissing a Nevada Democratic candidate during her 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor.

In a Friday op-ed, former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores said Mr. Biden, who was then vice president, put his hands on her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and planted a kiss on the back of her head as she waited to speak to a crowd in Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t move and I couldn’t say anything,” said Ms. Flores in an article for New York magazine. “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.”

Her explosive account threatened to upend Mr. Biden’s potential candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary before it even begins. Mr. Biden, who has not said whether he will run, leads a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls in virtually every poll.

Already, one potential opponent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has weighed in, telling reporters at a Saturday forum in Iowa, “I believe Lucy Flores and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”

In a statement, Biden spokesman Bill Russo said the former vice president had no recollection of the event but that Ms. Flores “has every right to share her own recollection and reflections.”

“Neither then, nor in the years since, has 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,” said the statement.

Several women, including at least two former Biden staffers, have gone to bat for him. Former Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff Lamy tweeted that she was “never uncomfortable with how he treated me and other women.”

They also pointed to his record on women’s issues. Former Biden senior staffer Elizabeth Alexander tweeted that “he was, and has always been, a huge champion for women and equality.”

Henry Munoz, co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, which hosted the campaign rally, also defended Mr. Biden.

“I have thoroughly reviewed photographic documentation from the event, and spoken to nearly every principle in attendance, as well as staff associated with the event. To the best of our recollection, at no time were Lucy Flores and Vice President Biden alone,” said Mr. Munoz in a statement to the Hill.

Ms. Flores noted that Mr. Biden has something of a history when it comes to his interactions with women, pointing to instances of him caught on camera getting cozy during public appearances.

“Biden nuzzling the neck of the Defense secretary’s wife; Biden kissing a senator’s wife on the lips; Biden whispering in women’s ears; Biden snuggling female constituents,” Ms. Flores said. “I saw obvious discomfort in the women’s faces, and Biden, I’m sure, never thought twice about how it made them feel.”

She described his actions with her as “blatantly inappropriate and unnerving” in the commentary headlined, “An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden.”

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