Former vice president Joe Biden has not yet announced that he is running for president, but he is already facing an allegation of inappropriate behavior that threatens his widely anticipated campaign.
Several of Biden’s potential 2020 opponents have weighed in on the controversy since former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores published an article in The Cut alleging that he smelled her hair and gave her a “big slow kiss on the back of my head” at a 2014 rally.
On Sunday, Biden said in a statement that he doesn’t think that he ever “acted inappropriately.”
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” he said.
But in the #MeToo era, the other Democratic contenders have indicated that Biden – who leads in most early polling – won’t have an easy time putting the allegation behind him. Here is what they have said:
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“I believe Lucy Flores,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro told reporters in Iowa on Saturday. “And we need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.”
“He’s going to decide whether he’s going to run or not and then the American people, if he does, will decide whether they support him or not,” Castro said when asked if the allegation disqualified Biden.
“I don’t know the details,” said John Delaney, a former House representative from Maryland. “I have no reason to doubt the woman, who I think was a state representative or ran for lieutenant governor.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said “our first responsibility is to make sure that we recognize their bravery, and that we listen to them and we believe them,” Hickenlooper said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t know all the details, but I think that’s why we have an election,” he said when asked if the allegation was disqualifying. “But certainly, it’s very disconcerting.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that she had not read Flores’ article, but she had “no reason not to believe her.”
She said Biden “will continue to address it if he decides to get into this race.”
“I have no reason not to believe Lucy,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
When asked if the allegation disqualified Biden from the 2020 campaign, Sanders said, “I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make.”
“I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but her point is absolutely right,” Sanders said. “It is not acceptable that when a woman goes to work or is in any kind of environment that she feels anything less than comfortable and safe. And this is an issue the entire country has got to work on.”
“I believe Lucy Flores,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Saturday at an event in Iowa. “And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
When asked if she thought Biden should stay out of the race because of the allegation, Warren said, “That’s for Joe Biden to decide.”
Contributing: Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register