Joe Biden deflects claims by Lucy Flores: 'Never did I believe I acted inappropriately'

John Bacon

Former Vice President Joe Biden responded Sunday to a Nevada woman's claim of inappropriate behavior, denying any wrongdoing but promising to "listen respectfully" to such claims.

"In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden said. "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."

Biden said he might not recall moments – such as the one described by former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores in an article published Friday in The Cut – in the same way that the accuser does. 

"But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will."

Biden also vowed to remain "the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women."

Flores was the 35-year-old Democratic nominee making an ill-fated run for Nevada lieutenant governor in 2014 when she met Biden at a rally just days before the election. He was standing behind her when she felt his hands on her shoulders, she wrote. 

"He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified," she wrote. "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."

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Flores wrote that, as a young Latina in politics, she was accustomed to feeling like an outsider. But she said she "never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate and unnerving before."

Flores told CNN's State of the Union on Sunday that Biden's statement was an improvement from the response Saturday, when a spokesman said only that the former vice president did not recall the incident. She said she was glad Biden was willing to listen.

But Flores said Biden's statement reflects a lack of understanding about the woman's point of view in such situations.

"My point was never about his intentions, and they shouldn't be about his intentions," Flores said. "It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior."

In 2015, Biden was criticized for putting his hands on the shoulders of Stephanie Carter, the wife of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and whispering in her ear as her husband was being sworn in at the White House. Both Carters later said they were not offended.

Biden is the early leader in polling among hopefuls for the Democratic nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. He has not announced his candidacy but could join the race within the next few weeks.

Flores, who supported Bernie Sanders in 2018, said she has not determined whom she will support in 2020. She said she came forward now because she believes such behavior matters when vetting a candidate – and because she believes other Democratic hopefuls are capable of defeating Trump.

"As foot soldiers for the party, we are expected to keep our dirty laundry to ourselves," she said. "For me, it (Biden's behavior) is disqualifying. I think it is up to everybody else to make that decision."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden deflects claims by Lucy Flores: 'Never did I believe I acted inappropriately'