Biden accused by second woman of improper physical contact
A second woman has come forward to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriate touching, further complicating the prospective presidential candidate's political future and intensifying what has become a social media reckoning on his previous public behavior with women.
Amy Lappos, 43, told the Hartford Courant in an interview published Monday that Biden grabbed her during a $1,000-per-plate October 2009 fundraiser for Connecticut Democrat Rep. Jim Himes. Lappos, who initially posted about the episode on Facebook on Sunday, was working as an aide for Himes at the time.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head," Lappos told the paper. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
A Biden spokesman did not immediately respond to Fox News' requests for comment. In statements earlier Monday and over the weekend, both Biden and his team strongly denied accusations the former vice president acted inappropriately around women. Still, they vowed to listen to any allegations or concerns.
Lappos, who was seen in photos with Biden at the event, said the episode occurred inside the Greenwich home of an affordable housing developer, and that Himes was not present at the time.
Lappos continued: “I never filed a complaint, to be honest, because he was the vice president. I was a nobody. There’s absolutely a line of decency. There’s a line of respect. Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It’s not cultural. It’s not affection. It’s sexism or misogyny.”
In her initial Facebook post, Lappos condemned those who would suggest the "grossness of men invading women’s boundaries to sniff and touch is debatable. And shame on some of the women here excusing this as boys being boys or it’s not as bad as Trump. I can speak from experience when I say it’s an incredibly uncomfortable situation and not at all acceptable. We need to hold our men to the same standards we hold all men."
Actress Eva Longoria with Biden at a get-out-the-vote rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2014. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, File)
Lappos' accusations came on the heels of a similar claim by former Nevada lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores, who accused Biden of inappropriate sexual conduct during a 2014 campaign event. Flores alleged in an article Friday that Biden "plant[ed] a big slow kiss on the back of my head."
In a statement shortly afterward, a Biden spokesperson denied that the vice president or his staff had been aware that Flores was uncomfortable. And the 76-year-old prospective 2020 presidential candidate issued a statement Sunday strongly denying wrongdoing -- but promising to "listen respectfully" to any accusations of misconduct.
Flores' claim prompted a slew of social media posts highlighting what critics said amounted to Biden's clearly inappropriate behavior in public view. Some images showed Biden alongside women ranging from a biker to the wife of the former defense secretary to actress Eva Longoria – raising questions about whether the images will haunt Biden in the #MeToo era as he moves toward a rumored 2020 presidential run.
Vice President Joe Biden with customers at a diner in Seaman, Ohio, in September 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
"I'm just shocked that no one has ever told Vice President Biden, 'stop interacting with women that way. You're making them feel uncomfortable,'" Flores told MSNBC on Monday. "Or, at least we think you’re making them feel uncomfortable because that is the perception we’re seeing from the outside in."
For her part, Lappos told the Courant that Biden's apparent behavior was disqualifying: "If Biden truly supports women and gender equality he would step aside and support one of the many talented and qualified women running. The same goes for the other men who have thrown their hat in the ring. Women are 52 percent of the population. We are not a minority, we are the majority. It is time we are represented as such. After 45 male presidents it is time we elect a woman."
But, in a fiery statement Monday, a Biden spokesman pushed back on the accusations made against him at that point, saying many photos of Biden have been misinterpreted -- even according to some of the women who appear in them -- while others were blatant "smears and forgeries."
"One such instance involved Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the other Senator Chris Coons’ daughter," Biden spokesman Bill Russo said. "Each was ostensibly captured by a photo that some have interpreted in a way that is reflected consistently, and without scrutiny, in the reporting. Ms. Flores herself has cited the Carter photo as an example of the behavior she experienced.
Biden with Stephanie Carter in February 2015 at the White House. (Alex Wong/Getty Images, File)
"Here’s the problem: in neither case is the often repeated and recirculated interpretation true," Russo continued. "Both Stephanie Carter and Senator Coons have now felt compelled to speak out to put these ugly urban legends to rest."
Russo cited an interview in which Carter corrected the record on her own experience with Biden, as well as a Washington Post article in which Coons' daughter similarly absolved Biden of misconduct.
Vice President Joe Biden leaning in to say something to Maggie Coons, next to her father Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., in January 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
"And they are not the only ones," Russo said. "There are other, even more insidious examples of claims about the Vice President that have no foundation: the use of photoshopped images and other manipulations of social media. Perhaps most galling of all, a cropped photo of the Vice President comforting his grandson outside of his son Beau’s funeral has been used to further this false narrative."
Russo concluded: "The important conversation about these issues are not advanced, nor are any criticisms of Vice President Biden validated, by the continued misrepresentation of the Carter and Coons moments, or a failure to be vigilant about a cottage industry of lies."
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.