House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said that allegations from two women who say they were touched inappropriately by former Vice President Joe Biden should not disqualify him from running for president.
“I don’t think it’s disqualifying,” Pelosi said during a live Politico interview. “He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.”
Pelosi also offered Biden some unsolicited advice, saying he should respect people’s space by keeping them an arm’s length away.
“Join the straight-arm club,” she joked.
Her comments come following accusations by two women who say Biden “invaded” their personal space in separate incidents during his two terms as vice president. Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, claims Biden approached her from behind and kissed the back of her head without her permission as they were waiting to take the stage at a political rally in Las Vegas in 2014.
Flores said she “felt invaded” and described the episode as “a violation of my personal space” but that she does not consider it a sexual assault or harassment, or that Biden had “a bad intention.”
On Monday, Amy Lappos, a former aide to Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., described a similar encounter she says she had with Biden in 2009. Lappos said Biden touched her inappropriately and rubbed noses with her at a political fundraiser in Greenwich, Conn.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.
“I never filed a complaint, to be honest, because he was the vice president. I was a nobody,” she added. “There’s absolutely a line of decency. There’s a line of respect. Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It’s not cultural. It’s not affection. It’s sexism or misogyny.”
Biden issued a statement Sunday saying he does not remember the alleged incident involving Flores but does not believe he ever acted inappropriately.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately,” the statement read. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully.”
Biden continued: “But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at 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.”
The accusations come as the 76-year-old is considering another presidential run, his third.
Meanwhile, several women have come to Biden’s defense.
Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, said that a viral photo showing Biden touching her during her husband’s 2015 swearing-in ceremony — which resurfaced in the wake of Flores’s claims — has been taken out of context.
“Let me state upfront that I don’t know [Flores], but I absolutely support her right to speak her truth and she should be, like all women, believed,” Stephanie Carter wrote in a Medium post Sunday. “But her story is not mine. The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful.”
On Monday, USA Today published an op-ed by Elizabeth Alexander, Biden’s former press secretary, who says he was a “champion” for women both in public and private.
“I saw him at his best and his worst, in quiet moments and on the world’s largest stages,” Alexander wrote. “He was, is and always has been a champion for women and equality.”
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