Warren: Biden needs to answer for inappropriate touching allegation

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Saturday said former Vice President Joe Biden needs to provide an answer to allegations he inappropriately touched a Nevada politician at an event in 2014.

Lucy Flores, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada, made the allegations against Biden in an essay for The Cut, an arm of New York magazine, writing that Biden made her feel “uneasy, gross, and confused” in 2014 when, at a campaign rally in Nevada, she said he kissed her on the back of the head. Biden does not recall any impropriety, a spokesman said.

“I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified,” Flores wrote, adding that she wondered why the then-vice president had come that close to her. “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.”

“I read the op-ed last night,” Warren said in Iowa on Saturday. “I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”

At the same event in Iowa, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro told reporters he too believed Flores and added, “we need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.”

Bill Russo, a Biden spokesman, in a statement on Friday, said, “Vice President Biden was pleased to support Lucy Flores’s candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada in 2014 and to speak on her behalf at a well-attended public event. 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.

“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. He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.”

Russo added in an additional statement on Saturday: “People know Joe Biden and they know his character, his integrity and his values. They know him to be someone who is empathetic, caring and who understands their problems and concerns. That’s how he reacts to people and it’s how people react to him. In fact, some of the people who know him best — people who have worked for him throughout his career — are speaking up to say that he has always been a champion for women in his office.”

Flores’ account comes as Biden is considering a bid for president in 2020. He is expected to announce his decision as soon as April.

Asked by a reporter if the allegations should bar the Biden from entering the 2020 Democratic race, Warren responded, “that’s for Joe Biden to decide.”

Pushed further if it disqualifies any male candidate accused of inappropriate behavior from running, Warren said the final decision will be up to the voters.

“That is their decision whether or not to run, and it’ll be up to Democratic voters whether or not to support someone. That’s the process.”