Former Vice President Joe Biden has responded to allegations that he displayed inappropriate affection toward a former Nevada assemblywoman, saying that in his years as a public figure, “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,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Biden’s response follows Lucy Flores accusing him of touching and kissing the back of her head without her consent in 2014 during an appearance he made with her to aid her unsuccessful campaign for Nevada lieutenant governor. She recounted the alleged incident in a story in New York Magazine’s The Cut on Friday.
Biden said he’s offered “countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” over his “many years on the campaign trail and in public life.”
As he said he did not believe those actions were inappropriate, he added that he remains “the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women.”
The allegation against Biden surfaced as he’s expected to enter the 2020 presidential race. Among his fellow Democrats who have already declared their White House candidacies, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julián Castro have spoken out in support of Flores.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday he has “no reason not to believe” Flores, when asked about the matter on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Sanders also said he will leave it to Biden to decide whether the Flores complaint should nix a White House bid by the former vice president.
“I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but (Flores’)her point is absolutely right.”
Biden, 76, has faced previous concerns about inappropriate touching during his decades-long public career. Photos and videos have shown him kissing a senator’s wife on the lips, whispering into a girl’s ear and then kissing her cheek as she appears to pull away, and squeezing the shoulders and whispering into the ear of the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter as he was sworn into that post during President Barack Obama’s administration.
This story has been updated with comment from Sen. Sanders.