A onetime Democratic nominee for Nevada’s lieutenant governor accused former vice president Joe Biden on Friday of touching and kissing her without her consent during her campaign in 2014, an experience she says left her feeling mortified and confused.
In an essay published by The Cut, Lucy Flores wrote that when she learned the then-vice president had offered to appear at a rally in Nevada to support her campaign, she was grateful. But that feeling changed, she said, when Biden approached her from behind as she was getting ready to address the crowd.
She wrote that she felt the vice president place two hands on her shoulders before moving closer to her from behind.
Then, she says, Biden kissed her on the back of her head.
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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.
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As a young Latina, Flores said, she was used to feeling like an outsider in a political world dominated by white men - but she’d never experienced something so “blatantly inappropriate and unnerving before.”
While she told a few members of her staff what happened, Flores said she was initially reluctant to talk to anyone else.
“Is it enough of a transgression if a man touches and kisses you without consent, but doesn’t rise to the level of what most people consider sexual assault?” she asked. “I did what most women do, and moved on with my life and my work.”
A spokesman for Biden said Friday that the former vice president was “pleased” to support Flores in 2014, and neither he nor his staff had “an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes.”
“But Vice President Biden believes that Ms. Flores has every right to share her own recollection and reflections, and that it is a change for better in our society that she has the opportunity to do so,” the statement read. “He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.”
During a March 16 speech in Dover, Del., Biden referred to himself as a “tactile politician.”
“I always have been, and that gets me in trouble as well, because I think I can feel and taste what is going on,” he told the crowd.
Over the years, images and videos have shown Biden embracing, kissing and standing close to women. These instances were brushed off by some who saw his actions as “lighthearted,” and Flores lamented that Biden could keep his title of “America’s Favorite Uncle” despite myriad publications documenting his actions.
“In this case, it shows a lack of empathy for the women and young girls whose space he is invading, and ignores the power imbalance that exists between Biden and the women he chooses to get cozy with,” she wrote.
Flores’ account also comes as Biden faces scrutiny over the way he handled the accusations Anita Hill made against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.
On Tuesday, at an event honoring those who have worked to combat sexual assault on college campuses, Biden apologized again for his handling of the matter in 1991, when Hill faced accusatory questioning from a panel of white men.
“To this day, I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us,” Biden said in New York at the Biden Courage Awards.
Some pointed out that his use of the word “couldn’t” suggested he didn’t have the power to change the course of the hearing.
Washington Post staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.