Lucy Flores was getting ready to deliver a speech as the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada in 2014, when she alleges that former Vice President Joe Biden, who had come to campaign on her behalf, kissed her on the back of her head without her consent.
Now she has a message for the potential 2020 contender after a spokesperson said he couldn’t recall the incident.
“I would say I hope you recognize how your behavior made women feel,” Flores told The Daily Beast on Friday night. “I hope you are empathetic to how your behavior makes a lasting impression on women.”
Flores said the unwanted attention stung even more in light of Biden’s status at the time.
“To me, he no longer had a name,” Flores said. “That was not Joe Biden. To me, that was the vice president of the United States of America. The second most powerful man in the country. And we have no prior relationship. We’re not friends. There’s no relationship whatsoever. And then he begins to not only touch me but get really inappropriately close. And then lean in, and smell my hair and kiss my head.”
Flores, who first wrote about the alleged incident in a piece for “The Cut,” part of New York Magazine, described the situation, which she said occurred as she was prepared to walk onstage, as “shocking.”
“I just froze. I didn’t know what to do,” she continued. “Because again the only thing that you’re processing is that there is a very powerful man standing next to you. That person is there to campaign on your behalf and you just don’t know how to respond. I mean that’s how I felt. I literally just didn’t even know what to do other than just wish the moment away.”
Biden’s camp has said that while he respects Flores and does not deny her right to tell her story, he can recall no such incident.
“Vice President Biden was pleased to support Lucy Flores’s candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada in 2014 and to speak on her behalf at a well-attended public event,” Bill Russo, a spokesperson for Biden said. “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 Flores, 39, has stuck by her account. In her piece for “The Cut,” she said that she told a few members of her staff what had taken place after the event. However, she said that she did not have permission to share personal information about them. The Daily Beast was able to view correspondence between Flores and another individual discussing the alleged incident in Nevada years prior to the New York Magazine article. The exchange gives credence to Flores’ claim to the extent that it shows it was an incident she talked about before going public this Friday.
Flores said that she was motivated to publicize her claim by the fact that articles about Biden’s preparations for a third run at the presidency did not mention anything about images of the former Vice President and women that she perceived as inappropriate.
“It made me feel like that inappropriate behavior is passable,” she told The Daily Beast. “It’s just Biden being Biden or boys will be boys. And as women, we’re just expected to take it. They just go on with their lives and go on with their work.”
Flores said that she had crossed paths with Biden previously when she was a “very active surrogate” for the 2012 reelection campaign of then-President Obama. She said that no other inappropriate actions had taken place during those prior encounters, which contributed to the shock she felt about the 2014 incident.
In her essay for “The Cut,” Flores recalled speaking to a man who she describes as a political operative in Biden’s orbit. “He did what no one else had and made me question myself and wonder if I was doing the right thing,” she wrote.
After the piece was published, that man identified himself as Cristobal Alex, the former president of Latino Victory Fund (Alex is reportedly set to work for a prospective Biden campaign). In a statement posted on Twitter, he said that their conversation was misrepresented but that “in no way did I question her recollection of the experience.”
“I had no idea that she felt this way until her call a few weeks ago,” he said. “Lucy should absolutely share her story. But please don’t misrepresent me.”
This moment comes at a critical juncture before Biden is widely expected to enter the 2020 race next month. It is also on the heels of recent remarks from the former vice president expressing regret about the way in which he handled confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
“To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment and was the subject of sexist attacks herself.
Flores previously ran against Ruben Kihuen for the Democratic nomination in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District and she endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 presidential campaign. She had previously spoken out about allegations against Kihuen, who decided not to seek re-election after being called upon to resign. And Flores also has discussed allegations about former individuals on Sanders’ 2016 campaign.
Flores told The Daily Beast that Biden likely didn’t recall because the alleged behavior had happened before.
“My first reaction in reading it is he probably is telling the truth,” she said. “He probably doesn’t remember the interaction. I would argue that he is so used to behaving in that way that it is no big deal.”