S1: I heard that you have this file you keep of hate mail. You’ve gotten over the last year or so. Is that true? Yes. Lucy Flores knows what it means to accuse a powerful man of hurting you. She knows what you can lose.
S2: It gets filled almost. Luckily not daily, but it was daily. What’s in there? It’s a lot of it’s a lot of hate. It’s a lot of vitriol. It’s a lot of cruelty and a couple that are scary. So I keep all of those because you just, frankly, never know when something terrible could potentially happen to you and you want there to be a record.
S1: Last spring before Joe Biden was officially even running for president. Lucy Floras accused him of making her uncomfortable in such a peculiar way that it seemed hard to have made up. The story goes like this.
S3: Lucy had been running for lieutenant governor of Nevada. Biden had agreed to stump with her. This is back in 2014. Lucy says they were getting ready to step out on stage together. They were all lined up listening for their cues.
S4: We were all waiting to be called and I feel his hands on me on my shoulders. And that in and of itself was already weird because I was like, oh, my God. The vice president is touching me.
S3: Lucy can’t forget these little details of their interaction. Hope she hadn’t washed her hair that morning. And it made her especially mortified when Biden leaned in to sniff her head.
S4: And then he plants this slow kiss on the top of my head. And I am just I don’t know what to do. I don’t move. I don’t. My arms are still at my side. I, I just. I just. And I’m literally just praying to any God that is willing to listen for my name to be called because I just want to be out of that situation.
S1: Last year, as Lucy told the story publicly over and over again, it wasn’t just hate mail that started pouring in. There were also messages of support, messages from women saying, I’ve been in situations just like that one with a boss or a politician or with Joe Biden. After you spoke out, how many other women came forward with their own allegations?
S2: I always lose track. I think it was seven or eight total, including me. So I think it was an additional seven or an additional six.
S1: One of these women was Tara Reid.
S5: Tara Reid, a former Biden staffer accusing the former V.P. of sexual assault, says she, Tara Reid said you probably know her name by now. Three a year after Lucy Flores came forward, Reid’s allegations are now at the forefront. Reid telling the Associated Press, quote, I know that I was too scared to write about the sexual assault.
S1: Reid alleges that Biden went far beyond sniffing her hair. She says he assaulted her when she worked in the Senate office back in the 90s. Lucy Flores said that after she went public with her allegation, Tara Reid reached out to her, wanted to talk.
S2: I do still have that email where she talked about that she had several incidents with Joe Biden and that she wanted to speak out as well. But I did not end up reaching out to her because it was such a it was it was a really difficult thing to bear. You know, you’re as I said, it’s I don’t think we talk enough about what women experience when they speak out against a powerful man.
S3: You must you must wonder now what she would have said to you.
S4: I do. I do wonder a lot. And I you know, and I actually feel a little bit of guilt about it, but I don’t know.
S3: Today on the show, a year after Lucy Flores started a conversation about Joe Biden and sex and power. Tara Reid is reminding a lot of people that that conversation never really finished. So, Lucy, she’s going to give her own hard earned perspective here on whether she believes Tara. And what voters do now.
S6: I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next? Stick with us.
S1: In the weeks since Tara Reid came out with her new allegations against Joe Biden. Lucy Flores has gotten back in touch with her looking to offer support. Lucy knows better than anyone how vulnerable and accuser can feel. I’m wondering what your conversations with Tara Reid have been like.
S2: I’ve only spoken to her once since she came out with her full story. And it the entire conversation was more about moral support. And, you know, giving her whatever feedback I could in terms of the way in which people are going to come for her, the various things that she needed to do to protect herself. I think it was more a lot more practical advice and also just moral support and letting her know that that I was thinking about her and that I obviously empathize with everything she’s going through.
S1: What’s your number one piece of practical advice?
S2: My number one piece of practical advice to her was that she just really needed to take it day by day and to focus on herself and her truth and her. Why her? Why, yes. Why did you decide to speak out? Tell me more about that. Well, that’s for me. That’s what kept me grounded when I was experiencing so much harassment after I spoke about my interactions was that I had to always focus on why did I decide to do this? And we talked about those reasons.
S1: I mean, I’m curious, why did you decide to tell your story? I’m not sure that I know that. Like what what what your decision process was.
S2: The primary reason was because I began to see photos emerge of him interacting that way with other women. And there were stories that were written and there was even a vignette that was done by Jon Stewart and, you know, making fun of creepy.
S1: Uncle Joe Biden left his hands on Stephanie Carter’s shoulders for an estimated 20 expected.
S7: You seem tense. Is it the stress of me groping you for 28 straight seconds?
S2: And so I had to just constantly be reminded that he was acting this way, that he was making women feel uncomfortable and everyone was just laughing about it. It was not being treated seriously. And I knew from personal experience what that felt like. And it was wrong.
S1: For Lucy, telling her own story was a way of shifting the way the rest of us saw what happened to her, not as an incident that was laughably awkward, but as an incident where she was actually harmed. And that gives her empathy for Tara Reid, who seems to be seeing what happened in her own life through new eyes. Her allegations of what happened in Biden’s office have become more extreme over time. At first, Reid told reporters, Biden made her uncomfortable. She said he ran a finger up her neck during a meeting, asked her to serve cocktails because she had nice legs. But that story evolved into a full on assault charge.
S2: I think that the way in which we characterize the various things that she has done, like, for example, I don’t consider the stories that she has said. I don’t consider them changing a story. Why not? Because she all she did was leave out details. She hasn’t changed the fundamental substance of any of the things that she said she experienced. It is all been parts that she admitted. And again, this isn’t coming from her. This is what I was I would think is that as you gain the confidence or the courage to tell a little bit more. And she did try to tell a little bit more shortly thereafter. But media did not. And the AP said this, that they were not able at the time to corroborate those parts of the stories. And yet, Katie Halperin, now all of these additional journalists have. So you have to question how much effort did you really put into corroborating these stories if they were so easily corroborated now?
S1: Right. We should say Joe Biden denies that anything happened between himself and Tara Reid. It sounds like you believe all of her allegations, including the most recent ones.
S2: I do believe, Tara. And ultimately, in all of these safe situations, everyone will have to come to their own conclusion, you know, because there is rarely smoking gun evidence. And I just hope that when folks are assessing that, that they’re doing so with at least an informed viewpoint and not because they have immediately made this knee-jerk reaction, because this person doesn’t fit the profile of a perfect victim.
S3: Can we talk a little bit about how the media has responded to Tara Reid’s allegations?
S1: Because I know that you are concerned that Tara Reid wouldn’t be interviewed by as many outlets as Joe Biden, that her voice wouldn’t be heard on the same footing as his. Do you still have that concern?
S2: I do have that concern. I know that she declined an interview and. And I’m not sure how many she’s decrying at this point. I can certainly see why she would do that again. She’s talked about receiving death threats. And I know that that’s a scary place to be in. But at the same time. We end up having a lot of these conversations without her opinion and without her voice and without her ability to react to some of the conclusions that people are coming to. It’s certainly one thing to have opinions about this. It’s another thing to make determinations about her motive or her character or whatever else people try to come up with in order to discredit her. And then I know from experience, because that’s what happened to me. I. But again, I I’m I’m a very different situation. I, I came from a political world. I had interacted with media many, many times before. I kind of knew what I needed to do in order to continue to get my voice out there and not allow, at least to the extent that I could. The narrative to be stolen from me, which at the end of the day, I was not successful in that. The narrative ultimately was stolen from me. Why do you say that? Because I think that even up until now, people still characterize Biden’s inappropriate behavior as him just being a hugger or him just being extra affectionate.
S8: Today, I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement that I’ve made to women. And so men made them uncomfortable.
S1: In a video response to allegations from Lucy and others last spring. Biden leaned into this reasoning, said he was just a touchy feely guy, and grabbed my shoulders to say, you can do this.
S8: Women, women, men, young. This way. I’ve always been this way. I’ve tried to show I care about them and I’m listening.
S1: He promised to be more mindful of people’s personal space. But then on the campaign trail, he sounded like he was anything but remorseful.
S2: He made jokes about it throughout the entire campaign. You know, laughing and giggling that he had asked for consent to shake someone’s hand or or to give them a consensual hug. No one ever said that there was anything wrong with that. That is actually appropriate. That’s what people should do. But to joke about it was just such a slap in the face and you don’t get the opportunity to continue to talk about it. And I and I think that that is what happens to so many women who speak out, is that they do it at the beginning. They get some media coverage. And then ultimately it is the perpetrator, the person who did wrong, that continues to have that microphone and you just fade into the existence.
S1: Yeah, I mean, it’s the person with more power, right? It’s the person with the bigger platform. They just end up being the person with the final word. I mean, I look back and I think it’s so interesting because you look at someone like Anita Hill and in that situation, it almost seems like that dynamic has flipped. And now we hear from her about this issue far more than you hear from Clarence Thomas. And I don’t know if it really did make me think about, like who has the power and how the power dynamic dynamic can shift over time.
S2: Yes. And that is the one thing that I think is gives you some hope is that we women can go on into the future and become leaders and become advocates and become powerful voices in our fight for equality. But yet, at the same time, you see how much sacrifice needed to be made by those women. And you see how long it took. And you see just everything that they had to go through that they were subjected to. Career wise, personal life. You know, at all in all aspects of life. And, you know, one of the things that I remind people is that ultimately the responsibility of running for office is the responsibility of leading a company or whatever it is that these men are doing that is on them and not on us. And ultimately, if Joe Biden loses in November, it is nobody’s fault but his own.
S1: Are you worried people are going to blame the women who came forward if he loses?
S2: Of course. Absolutely. We were always blamed, of course.
S1: Have you already gotten those e-mails?
S2: Oh, yeah. I get them all the time. If if Trump wins, it’s my fault.
S9: If Trump wins, it’s my fault. If Trump wins, it’s terrorist’s fault. If Trump wins, it’s going to be the female journalist who wrote about this fault and who covered the story. It’s going to be all our fault and it’s not our fault for demanding more for ourselves. That is that is our right. That is what we should be doing. It is Joe Biden’s fault for not addressing this and for not leading when what he is running for is the top leadership position of this country.
S1: Can we talk about what it would look like for Joe Biden to do the right thing here like he has? He’s never spoken to you since you made your allegation, right?
S2: No, he has not. But I also tell people that that shouldn’t surprise anyone. It took him, what, 20, 30 years to call Anita Hill. And that was only because he was forced to because he was about to announce his campaign. And even then, he didn’t apologize, according to Anita Hill. So, no, there’s I don’t expect anything from Joe Biden. And people, frankly, shouldn’t be surprised about it. That’s his M.O.. Joe Biden has a problem with acknowledging his mistakes. That is the number one thing that he needs to do in order to move forward. If he wants to convince more people to vote for him, then to vote for Trump, then he is going to have to take leadership not only on this subject, but on all kinds of different subjects. But certainly the first step in that is acknowledging that he has done harm.
S1: Were you disappointed when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and others came out in support of Joe Biden?
S2: I think everyone is in such a very tough position. It feels like a choice of impossibles. Biden is the presumed nominee. I don’t know what process. We can do in order for him to not be the nominee. Aside from him stepping down, which I don’t believe he’s ever going to do. The DNC has already called. They responded to The New York Times editorial board asking for an actual independent investigation. They called that idea absurd. And the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, is on national outlets already defending Joe Biden. I think that the early support and the early determinations of Terra’s claims were definitely disappointing. I think people could have waited in order to find more information and been more nuanced about their stances because we are in such a terrible predicament. And so I just think it’s it’s unfortunately such an awful, awful complicated place that we’re at right now. And so in many ways, yes, I was disappointed. But at the same time, I also understand that. What are we gonna do?
S5: What do we do?
S1: Well, I guess I should ask. You know, in November, we’re talking about Joe Biden, allegations against him, things you said, things Tara Reid have said, who do you plan to vote for in November?
S2: I am very, very. Begrudgingly voting for Joe Biden. And I have said that since the very beginning. Know, that question was posed to me when I first when I first talked about my interactions with him. And to me, it’s about harm reduction for women in this country. And to me, it’s very clear that Trump, when you’re comparing the two, is significantly more harmful to women. I do feel compelled to vote against him, but it’s very clearly not a vote for Joe Biden. It is a vote against Donald Trump. And I think it’s just a very painful situation to be in. And I think it’s going to be a painful situation for many survivors, which, by the way, I don’t I don’t call myself a survivor, but there of sexual assault survivors who are going through a lot right now because of this and and what a terrible, terrible place to be and to have to vote for a possible assaulter and a probable assault.
S3: Lucy Flores, thank you so much for joining me.
S4: Thank you so much for having me and for having this conversation.
S3: Lucy Flores is a former Nevada state assemblywoman and the CEO of the Loose Collective. And that’s the show. What Next is produced by Daniel Hewitt, Jason de Leon and Mary Wilson. I’m Mary Harris. I’ll catch you back here tomorrow.