Biden Responds to Kissing Incident, Says Never Acted Improperly

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden responded to a former Nevada lawmaker who’s gone public about a incident in which she says the then-vice president acted inappropriately toward her, as a new poll showed the 76-year-old is the most palatable candidate for Democratic voters in 2020.

Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assembly member, said Biden smelled her hair and delivered “a slow kiss” to the top of her head at a 2014 campaign event when she was running for state lieutenant governor.

“I just can’t imagine that there was never a situation where someone said to him ... you probably should stop doing that, you should probably stop touching women in that way,” Flores, 39, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Biden Responds to Kissing Incident, Says Never Acted Improperly

In a statement released on Sunday, Biden said he had “offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” during his years in public life.

“Not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately,” he said in the statement. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”

‘Strongest Advocate’

Biden said he would “remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve.”

Cynthia Hogan, a former staffer for Biden in the Senate and as vice president, said in a statement that Biden looked out for women and “treated us with respect and insisted that others do the same.”

Still, Flores’s allegation put many Democrats in a bind regarding an elder statesman in their party and potential 2020 White House candidate.

“All of us should take such allegations seriously and with respect. I took Joe Biden’s statement to say just that exactly,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Certainly one allegation is not disqualifying, but it should be taken seriously.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who’s running for the 2020 nomination, said on ABC’s “This Week” that she has “no reason not to believe” Flores and that Biden “will continue to address it if he decides to get into this race.”

And Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another 2020 contender, also said he has “no reason not to believe Lucy” in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Asked if the allegation was “disqualifying” to Biden, Sanders said “I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make” and “I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”

Flores has served in the past on the board of directors of “Our Revolution,” a political action organization spun out of the 2016 Sanders campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Most Palatable

Separately, an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday showed Biden, who’s yet to formally announce a presidential bid, is the most palatable among well-known Democratic candidates at the moment.

A combined 73 percent of Democrats say they’re either enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden as a candidate, while just 25 percent either have reservations or are uncomfortable. That put Biden ahead of candidates with more progressive policy proposals, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The survey was conducted March 23-27, before Flores’s comments came to light on Friday in an article for New York Magazine’s “The Cut,” The margin of error for 1,000 adults surveyed was plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “Biden has a big problem because he calls it affection and handshakes. His party calls it completely inappropriate.”

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