Democrats may need to replace their call to “believe women” with “two strikes, you’re out” in the aftermath of one woman’s allegation of unwanted touching and kissing against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said Sunday that he didn’t believe that a single accusation of inappropriate behavior should be enough to keep Mr. Biden out of the 2020 presidential race, where he leads the field of would-be Democratic nominees in the polls.
“Certainly one allegation is not disqualifying, but it should be taken seriously,” the Illinois Democrat said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mr. Biden’s closest competitor for the Democratic nomination, also questioned whether one allegation should be enough to disqualify a candidate.
“I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make,” Mr. Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but her point is absolutely right.”
Former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores had another view. “For me, it’s disqualifying,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Ms. Flores upended the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by accusing Mr. Biden in a Friday essay of putting his hands on her shoulders, smelling her hair, and kissing the back of her head during a 2014 campaign rally, which she called “blatantly inappropriate.”
In a statement, Biden spokesman Bill Russo said the former vice president and his staff had no recollection of the encounter. Mr. Biden issued a second statement saying that he did not believe he had ever acted inappropriately.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” said Mr. Biden. “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.”
Should the Democrats believe Ms. Flores? “I have no reason not to believe Lucy,” said Mr. Sanders. “I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said she had not read the interview, but that “I know the vice president addressed it there in that statement and he will continue to address if he decides to get into this race.”
Does she believe Ms. Flores? “I have no reason not to believe her,” Ms. Klobuchar said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Another candidate for the Democratic nod, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said it was important to believe women, adding that he was unfamiliar with the allegation against Mr. Biden.
“I don’t know aside from this one issue—even this issue, I don’t know all the details—but I think that’s why we have an election,” Mr. Hickenlooper said on “Meet the Press.” “That’s that process, but it’s sort of a—it’s very disconcerting, and I think that again women have to be heard, and we should start by believing them.”
At a Saturday forum in Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters, “I read the op-ed last night, I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who was also in Iowa for the Heartland Forum, said, “I believe Lucy Flores. I believe the vice president put a statement out today. 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.”