Biden allegations revive scrutiny over history of 'uncomfortable' interactions with women
Nevada politician Lucy Flores accuses Joe Biden of kissing her on the back of her head during a 2014 campaign rally; Peter Doocy reports on how the former vice president is responding.
The allegations of inappropriate behavior leveled against Joe Biden by a former Nevada state lawmaker have dredged up a long history of incidents where the former vice president was photographed embracing women either on the campaign trail or in the Obama White House.
The former veep's office is fighting back, suggesting those photographs -- however awkward looking -- were taken out of context and in some cases doctored, and should not be conflated with the latest allegations. But the former lawmaker accusing Biden of inappropriate touching on Monday specifically likened her experience to that of other women.
“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,” Lucy 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.”
Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman, penned an essay Friday in New York Magazine describing a 2014 incident where Biden allegedly approached her from behind, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head. Her claims, in turn, have led to revived scrutiny of a series of images showing Biden alongside women ranging from a leather-clad biker to the wife of the former secretary of defense to actress Eva Longoria – raising questions about whether these images will haunt Biden in the #MeToo era as he moves toward a 2020 presidential run.
To be sure, some of the women have already come out in Biden's defense, notably Stephanie Carter. And a spokesperson for Biden hit back, reiterating Biden’s statement that he never intended to cause discomfort to anyone.
“These smears and forgeries have existed in the dark recesses of the internet for a while,” Bill Russo, the spokesman for Biden, said Monday. “And to this day, right wing trolls and others continue to exploit them for their own gain.”
Russo added: “[Biden] has issued a statement affirming that in all the many years in public life that he has shaken a hand, given or received a hug, or laid his hand on a shoulder to express concern, support; or reassurance, he never intended to cause discomfort. He has said that he believes that women who have experience any such discomfort, regardless of intention, should speak and be heard, and that he will be among those who listen.”
Nov. 1, 2014: Then-Vice President Joe Biden with actress Eva Longoria in Las Vegas.
But Flores is standing by her own statement, saying Monday: “If you would talk to women like me, I would have said ‘absolutely yes, stop touching me.’ But you don’t say that immediately to someone so powerful.’”
“Personally I do not believe that he should run.”
The photo that has drawn the most attention arguably is the February 2015 picture snapped during then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s swearing-in ceremony. The attention being heaped on the photo, however, has nothing to do with Carter himself but with his wife, Stephanie -- in particular, her expression as then-Vice President Biden leans in close to her ear with both hands on her shoulders.
While the photo has been cited as evidence of Biden’s touchy-feely tendencies, Stephanie Carter sought to set the record straight in a post on Medium over the weekend – writing that the photo has been “misleadingly extracted” and that there was nothing inappropriate about Biden’s actions.
“After the swearing-in, as Ash was giving remarks, he leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support,” Carter wrote. “But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.”
She added that she does not know Flores and that while “all women” should be believed, the Biden the former Nevada assemblywoman describes is not the Biden she knows.
“[H]er story is not mine. The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful,” Carter wrote. “So, as the sole owner of my story, it is high time that I reclaim it — from strangers, Twitter, the pundits and the late-night hosts.”
Then-Vice President Joe Biden leans in to say something to Maggie Coons, next to her father Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., after Biden administered the Senate oath to Coons during a ceremonial re-enactment swearing-in ceremony, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Old Senate Chamber of Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A month before the Carter incident, Biden was snapped clasping the arm of the daughter of Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and leaning in to say something into her ear during the senator’s swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill.
While the photo shows Maggie Coons making what appears to be an uncomfortable expression as the former vice president holds onto her upper arm, that perception has been disputed. Shortly after the photo was snapped, Sen. Coons said on "Fox News Sunday" that his daughter does not think Biden is “creepy.”
“No, she doesn’t think the vice president is creepy,” Coons said at the time. “He’s known my kids their whole lives. Joe was just being thoughtful, he was leaning forward. I could hear him. He was leaning forward and whispering some encouragement to her about how when he was sworn in and his own daughter Ashley was 13 and she felt awkward and uncomfortable and he was encouraging her about how to get through a day with lots of cameras and lots of folks watching.”
Coons added: "He was being Joe. He was being thoughtful, and he was being sweet. I think she is pleasantly surprised that more people have heard of her than have heard of me.”
A 2013 photo of Biden at a holiday party has also drawn criticism in the wake of the Flores allegations.
In the pic, Biden is seen putting his arms around the midsection of reporter Amie Parnes, who has her arms tightly clasped over the vice president's. Standing nearby in the photo is the former vice president’s wife, Jill Biden.
Parnes, who is currently a senior political correspondent for The Hill, has not publicly commented on the photo, but retweeted on Saturday a former Biden staffer who called the former vice president "a huge champion of women."
“Traveled the country and world with [Joe Biden] for 5 yrs as a senior member of his staff, in both the Senate and WH,” Elizabeth Alexander, Biden's former press secretary, tweeted. “Been with him in good times, bad times, quiet moments and on the biggest stages. Through it all, he was, and has always been, a huge champion for women and equality.”
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2012 file photo, then-Vice President Joe Biden talks to customers, including a woman who pulled up her chair in front of the bench Biden was sitting on, during a stop at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Not much is known about this individual, but a photo of Biden snuggling up to a woman wearing chaps, a leather vest and a bandana has taken on almost legendary proportions.
Biden was chatting up customers in the Cruisers Diner in southern Ohio in 2012 when he met a group of motorcycle riders in black leather vests and bandanas.
A female group member was watching, and Biden waved her over, telling her, “I know who runs the show.”
The woman had no place to sit, so Biden pulled a chair in front of himself and pulled her nearly into his lap. The woman’s two male friends did not seem as happy as Biden and the woman did.
Fox News' Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.