- Democratic Politician Lucy Flores wrote an article outlining an instance where former Vice President Joe Biden grabbed her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head without her consent.
- Biden denies ever acting inappropriately, but Flores’s story has brought new attention to his history of alleged inappropriate behavior towards women.
- Several 2020 candidates have spoken out and said that it is up to Biden to decide whether or not he wants to run after these allegations.
What Are the Accusations Against Biden?
A former Nevada politician has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her inappropriately while on the campaign trail in 2014.
Lucy Flores, who was running as the Democratic Nominee for Lieutenant Governor in the state of Nevada at the time, wrote an essay for The Cut published on March 29. In her piece, she recounts a time where Biden attended a rally to help her boost voter turnout. While in the holding room, she claims she felt him grab her shoulders from behind. He then allegedly smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head.
“He leaned further in and inhaled my hair,” Flores wrote. “I was mortified. I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual fuck? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?’ He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
After the event, she said she told her staff, but was unsure of where to turn after that.
“On the campaign trail, there’s no clear path for what to do when a powerful man crosses the line,” she said. “In politics, you shrug it off, smile for the cameras, and get back to the task of trying to win your race…I did what most women do, and moved on with my life and my work.”
However, since this happened to her, Flores says that she has only found her story to be validated via numerous reports and photos of Biden crossing the line with other women. Several viral photos have depicted him standing very close to women, touching the shoulders of and leaning into Stephanie Carter, the wife of the former Defense Secretary. Others show him kissing a senator’s wife on the lips, whispering into womens’ ears on numerous occasions, and cozying up to female constituents. She called this pattern of behavior an “open secret,” which nothing has ever come of.
It took Flores close to five years to tell her story. She was worried that, like many women, she would not be believed.
“For years I feared my experience would be dismissed,” she claimed in her essay. “Biden will be Biden. Boys will be boys. I worried about the doubts, the threats, the insults, and the minimization.”
However, the prospect of Biden making a presidential bid in 2020 was enough reason for Flores to decide to speak out, as she thought these stories needed to be a part of the conversation.
“But hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer,” she said.
While Flores was working on her piece, The Cut reached out to Biden’s office, but they declined to comment.
However on Saturday, after the article’s release, Biden’s spokesperson Bill Russo released a statement claiming that Biden was unaware that Flores was uncomfortable with their encounter.
On Sunday, Biden followed up with another statement, which he released via Russo, saying he does not think he has ever acted improperly.
“And not once – never – did I believe I acted Inappropriately,” he wrote. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, Flores responded to Biden’s remarks by saying his comments were a start, but his intentions were never the issue at hand.
“I’m glad that he’s willing to listen,” she told the program’s host, Jake Tapper. “I’m glad that he’s clarifying his intentions. Frankly, my point was not about his intentions and they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior.”
Biden’s History of Behavior Towards Women
As Flores suggested in her essay, Biden behaving inappropriately with women is not a new claim. Throughout the years, several headlines have popped up, showing the former vice president touching women and standing extremely close to them.
During the event where Biden kissed a senator’s wife, a reporter says she also saw him walking around the room and calling the female relatives of politicians “beautiful” among other borderline flirty sentiments.
Back in 2015, John Stewart aired a segment about Biden, including a montage of him crossing the line when it comes to women.
Despite this, Biden’s reputation remained intact. One Politico article characterized him as a “sex symbol.” U.S. News called his behavior “Biden being Biden.”
While most of the women depicted in these viral photos and clips have not spoken out about their encounters with Biden, Stephanie Carter wrote a Medium post on March 31 addressing what happened to her. Carter was at the swearing-in of her husband Ash, the former Defense Secretary. Afterward, a picture of Biden touching her shoulders and breathing by her neck began circulating on the internet. However, Carter said she does not feel like the victim of any wrongdoing.
“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.”
She also added that just because her story is positive, does not mean she does not believe Lucy Flores.
“Let me state upfront that I don’t know her, but I absolutely support her right to speak her truth and she should be, like all women, believed. But her story is not mine.”
2020 Candidates Respond
This story has put Biden’s potential run for president in a new light, and many wonder if it will impact his decision to campaign for the spot.
Several candidates have spoken about the allegations, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who said she believes Lucy Flores. Prior to Biden’s statement, she also added that “Biden needs to give an answer.”
As to whether or not the former Vice President should run, she said that is for him to decide.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) gave ABC a similar statement.
“I have no reason not to believe her,” Klobuchar said. “I think we know from campaigns and politics that people raise issues and they have to address them, and that’s what he will have to do with the voters if he gets into the race.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also said it will be up to Biden whether or not he still wants to run, but added that,“I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”
Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event
The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.
Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.
The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.
The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.
“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.”
The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.
“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.
“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”
The Age Maximum Question
Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.
Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.
While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.
These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.
There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.
What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.
As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.
Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.
However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (NBC News)
Churches Protected Loophole in Abuse Reporting for 20 years, Report Finds
In some cases, Clergy members failed to report abuse among their congregation, but state laws protected them from that responsibility.
A Nationwide Campaign to Hide Abuse
More than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sexual abuse reporting laws have been neutered or killed due to religious opposition over the past two decades, according to a review by the Associated Press.
Many states have laws requiring professionals such as physicians, teachers, and psychotherapists to report any information pertaining to alleged child sexual abuse to authorities. In 33 states, however, clergy are exempt from those requirements if they deem the information privileged.
All of the reform bills reviewed either targeted this loophole and failed or amended the mandatory reporting statute without touching the loophole.
“The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege,” the AP stated. “Influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.”
“This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials,” the report continued.
“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the outlet. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”
Abuses Go Unreported
Last month, another AP investigation discovered that a Mormon bishop acting under the direction of church leaders in Arizona failed to report a church member who had confessed to sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter.
Merrill Nelson, a church lawyer and Republican lawmaker in Utah, reportedly advised the bishop against making the report because of Arizona’s clergy loophole, effectively allowing the father to allegedly rape and abuse three of his children for years.
Democratic State Sen. Victoria Steele proposed three bills in response to the case to close the loophole but told the AP that key Mormon legislators thwarted her efforts.
In Montana, a woman who was abused by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses won a $35 million jury verdict against the church because it failed to report her abuse, but in 2020 the state supreme court reversed the judgment, citing the state’s reporting exemption for clergy.
In 2013, a former Idaho police officer turned himself in for abusing children after having told 15 members of the Mormon church, but prosecutors declined to charge the institution for not reporting him because it was protected under the clergy loophole.
The Mormon church said in a written statement to the AP that a member who confesses child sex abuse “has come seeking an opportunity to reconcile with God and to seek forgiveness for their actions. … That confession is considered sacred, and in most states, is regarded as a protected religious conversation owned by the confessor.”
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Deseret) (Standard Examiner)
Texas AG Ken Paxton Allegedly Flees Official Serving Subpoenas in Truck
Following the news, a judge granted the attorney general’s request to quash the subpoenas.
Paxton on the Run
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his own home in a truck Monday morning to evade an official trying to serve him a subpoena, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
Last month, several nonprofits filed a lawsuit seeking to block Texas from charging individuals under the state’s abortion ban in cases that happened out of state or prior to Roe v. Wade being overturned.
Two subpoenas were issued summoning Paxton to a Tuesday court hearing, one for his professional title and the other addressed to him personally.
Early on Monday Ernesto Martin Herrera, a process server, knocked on the front door of Paxton’s home in McKinney and was greeted by Texas state senator Angela Paxton, who is the Attorney General’s wife.
According to the affidavit, Herrera identified himself and informed her that he was delivering court documents to Mr. Paxton. She responded that her husband was on the phone and in a hurry to leave, so Herrera returned to his vehicle and waited for Ken to emerge.
Nearly an hour later, the affidavit states, a black Chevrolet Tahoe pulled into the driveway, and 20 minutes after that, the attorney general stepped out.
“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name,” Herrera wrote in the affidavit. “As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage.”
Shortly afterward, Angela exited the house and climbed into a truck in the driveway, leaving a rear driver-side door open.
“A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side,” Herrera wrote. “I approached the truck, and loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him.”
“Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck,” he continued.
The affidavit adds that Herrera placed the documents on the ground by the vehicle and stated that he was serving a subpoena, but the Paxtons drove away.
Process Server or Lingering Stranger?
Following the publication of the affidavit in The Texas Tribune, Ken attacked the news outlet on Twitter and claimed to fear for his safety.
“This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves,” he wrote. “All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety – many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”
“It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family,” he continued.
On Monday, the attorney general filed two requests: a motion to quash the subpoena and another to seal the certificates of service, which included the affidavit.
His lawyers argued that Herrera “loitered at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted” him and his wife.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted both requests on Tuesday.
In a statement, the attorney general said that Herrera is “lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force.”