Joe Biden says he never "acted inappropriately" in first statement after Lucy Flores accusation

By Jason Silverstein

/ CBS News

Biden says he never acted inappropriately with Lucy Flores

In his first statement since a Nevada political candidate accused him of inappropriate touching, former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday said he did not believe he ever "acted inappropriately," but would listen to suggestions saying otherwise. Lucy Flores has said that Biden kissed the back of her head during a 2014 campaign event.

"In my many years on the campaign trial and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden's statement said. "And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."

Biden added that he "may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised by what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will."

NEW: Statement from Joe Biden saying in all his years in public life, taking photos and giving hugs, “not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.” pic.twitter.com/P0OuFeWDXu

— Matt Viser (@mviser) March 31, 2019

Flores, a Democrat who served on the Nevada State Assembly, wrote a piece for New York magazine's The Cut on Friday alleging that Biden "inhaled" her hair and then kissed her before a campaign rally in 2014, when she was running for Nevada's lieutenant governor.

"He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head," Flores wrote. "My brain couldn't process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused…I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me."

She called the alleged incident "demeaning and disrespectful."

A spokesman for Biden had said in a previous statement that neither Biden nor his staff at the time recalled the incident Flores described.

Henry R. Munoz, the Latino Victory Project co-founder who organized the 2014 campaign event, said on Sunday that thorough review of the rally appeared to show that Biden and Flores were never alone together. "These are both individuals that I love and respect, and who have been supported by and who have supported the organization I co-founded to lift Latinx candidates," Munoz said in a statement. "Yet at no time were these two leaders alone together and I, and the organization I cofounded and those in attendance, do not believe that circumstances support allegations that such an event took place."

Flores did not explicitly say in her accusation that she and Biden were alone. She said the alleged incident happened after she and other speakers "were ushered to the side of the stage where we were lined up by order of introduction." In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Flores said the alleged touching "occurred in the chaos of a rally," while the actress Eva Longoria was in front of her. Longoria has not commented about the accusation.

Biden has been gearing for a potential presidential run, and has led early polls of Democratic candidates for 2020. Several declared 2020 candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Julian Castro, said they believed Flores' accusation. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who is also running for president, told CBS' "Face The Nation" Sunday he has "no reason to not believe" Flores.

Flores endorsed Sanders in the 2016 presidential race, but said on Twitter Saturday that she hasn't endorsed any candidate for 2020.

Flores told CNN she believes Biden's alleged behavior is "disqualifying" for a 2020 run. "I find a lot of his background problematic," she said.

Biden was already facing heat for his handling of Anita Hill's sexual harassment accusations against Clarence Thomas, who was then a nominee for the Supreme Court. Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 when Hill testified, and he said an FBI investigation was inconclusive.

Biden last week said he regretted how Hill was treated. "She was abused through the hearing," he said. "She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could've done something."

First published on March 31, 2019 / 9:40 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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