Lucy Flores, the former Nevada assemblywoman who on Friday said she felt uncomfortable during an encounter with then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2014, is not satisfied with Biden’s response to her allegations.
“He should apologize and acknowledge the way his behavior makes people feel ― makes women feel,” Flores told HuffPost on Sunday, the same day Biden said he would “listen respectfully” to her story.
“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.”
Flores told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Biden’s statement, his first on the matter, was better than that issued Friday by his spokesman Bill Russo. That statement focused on the fact that Biden and his staff had no “inkling” that Flores had been “at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes.”
Still, Flores said she found Biden’s statement inadequate.
“Whether he thought it was appropriate or not, or he intended to be inappropriate, he needs to acknowledge that it was inappropriate and that it’s not about his motive,” she said. “It’s about the recipient ― the person on the receiving end of that behavior.”
Flores, who now runs the Los Angeles-based digital media company Luz Collective, wrote last week in an essay for The Cut that she met Biden when he spoke at a rally in support of her 2014 bid for lieutenant governor of Nevada. She alleges that Biden came up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed her head.
“He made me feel uneasy, gross, and confused,” she wrote. “The vice-president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it.”
“Four years later, the field is just different. There are qualified women who are really exciting.”
Biden has been documented over the years touching women at political events in ways that seem cringeworthy to many observers. Flores was the first woman to publicly describe how she felt about being touched by him; another woman on Monday accused Biden of inappropriately touching her in 2009.
Flores has already faced skepticism over her accusations.
Henry Muñoz, a founder of the Latino Victory Fund who now serves as finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that he had “thoroughly reviewed” available evidence about the Nevada campaign rally and concluded that the interaction Flores described did not take place because Biden and Flores were never alone together.
Flores responded by saying she never alleged that she and Biden had been alone together when the incident occurred. Muñoz and others who believe the lack of alone time exonerates Biden “clearly didn’t read my essay,” she said.
Flores has also withstood some skepticism because of her support for the 2016 presidential run of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders tapped Flores to serve as one of his appointees to the Democratic National Committee’s Unity and Reform Commission, which produced recommendations for reforming the party’s presidential nominating process.
“I just hope it’s not true that Flores was prompted to write her essay because of her work with Bernie campaign,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers labor union, wrote Sunday in tweet that has since been deleted.
Flores said her loyalty to another candidate had nothing to do with her decision to speak up about Biden, and Sanders’ campaign told HuffPost it had no role in encouraging her to come forward.
Flores said she simply needed time to muster the courage to speak, and that she was also disturbed by the lack of a serious discussion about Biden’s tendency to touch women.
“There are so many conversations occurring about his potential candidacy, but this very important aspect of his behavior is not being discussed,” she said.
Flores called Biden’s conduct “disqualifying.” She said she was also “disappointed” by his ongoing unwillingness to take responsibility for failing to give an adequate hearing to law professor Anita Hill, who in 1991 accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
A host of 2020 presidential candidates have spoken up in support of Flores. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro both said Saturday before a HuffPost forum in Iowa that they believed Flores. Sanders, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were among those who said Sunday that they were confident in the veracity of Flores’ comments, but they stopped short of saying Biden shouldn’t enter the race.
Flores has not yet endorsed any candidate and has no plans to do so in the immediate future.
Although she credits Sanders for catapulting issues like “Medicare for all,” free college and the corrupting effect of money in politics into the party’s mainstream, she doesn’t plan to return to his side at this stage of the process. She also publicly broke with former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, last year when she resigned from the board of Our Revolution, a nonprofit run by Turner.
“Four years later, the field is just different. There are qualified women who are really exciting,” she said. “There’s Elizabeth Warren. Kamala Harris has built a very impressive campaign and is very, very diverse.”
Flores said she wholeheartedly supported forming unions to combat inappropriate sexual conduct toward political staff. But she said there was no substitute for male politicians engaging in introspection.
“Other than men being aware of themselves, and powerful men being aware of the power differential there, I don’t know what other way something like that can be avoided,” Flores said. “As a candidate, where should I submit my complaint against the vice president of the United States? ... There has to be a culture shift.”