A former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada accused Joe Biden of smelling her hair and kissing her on the head at a 2014 campaign event.
Writing for the Cut in a story published Friday afternoon, Lucy Flores described her encounter with the then–vice president of the United States. Biden had traveled to Nevada before the midterm election to help turn out Democratic voters and appeared at an event for Flores, she wrote.
According to Flores’ account, she was standing in a room next to the stage, waiting to be introduced, when Biden approached her:
As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. “Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?”
I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified. I thought to myself, “I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual fuck? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?” 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.”
Flores then described how the encounter left her feeling powerless, ashamed, and confused. She did not describe the kiss as assault or even definitively sexual in nature, but she did underscore its ultimate effect: She felt he had demeaned her at a crucial moment in her career in a way that left her feeling deeply upset.
In response to the Cut’s story, Biden spokesman Bill Russo gave a statement denying any knowledge of Flores’ account.
Vice President Biden was pleased to support Lucy Flores’ 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.
Flores appears to be the first woman to accuse Biden of inappropriate touching, but photos and stories of Biden behaving in an allegedly “creepy” way have circulated for a long time: He can be seen kissing Sen. Chuck Grassley’s wife on the lips; placing his hand too high on a woman’s waist (and just generally touching strangers and female acquaintances with too much familiarity); joking he hoped a teenage girl’s “mom has a big fence around your house” while also placing his arm around that teenager; and on numerous occasions whispering into a woman’s ear.
None of the women or girls involved in these encounters have complained publicly, but Flores wrote that she sees discomfort in the faces of the women in those photos. “Had I never seen those pictures, I may have been able to give Biden the benefit of the doubt,” she wrote. “But hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer.”
Update, March 29, 2019 at 6:08 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from a Biden spokesman.