Congressional Democrats returning to the Capitol on Monday evening were peppered with questions from reporters about Nevada Democrat Lucy Flores’s allegations that Joe Biden put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head at a public event in 2014. While the reaction from congressional Democrats was mixed, none would go so far as to say Biden shouldn’t run for president.
“I don’t know that it’s disqualifying,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said of Flores’s allegations. “There’s always been a physicality to the way Joe Biden interacts with people. He’s going to have to talk a little bit more about that if he’s going to get into the race.”
Unlike many of her colleagues, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii directly criticized Biden’s behavior and said his intentions don’t really matter. “It is how his behavior is experienced. One should not invade personal space. He needs to be a lot more aware of that,” Hirono told reporters. But she wouldn’t tell Biden to stay out of the race: “Whether he runs for president or not, it is ultimately, I think, up to the voters and his supporters.”
Asked how Biden compares to President Trump, who has faced accusations of unwanted kissing and groping, Hirono said that “Trump is many, many degrees of worseness, if there is such a word.”
Other Senate Democrats ducked the issue. “I’m not commenting on any of that,” Hawaii senator Brian Schatz said. Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ron Wyden of Oregon each said the allegations had to be taken seriously but didn’t say the behavior alleged by Flores is disqualifying.
Biden’s strongest support came from California senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as the senators who represent his home state of Delaware.
“He’s a warm, tactile person. He reaches out and touches,” Feinstein told Bloomberg. “It’s hardly sexy. So, that’s not his intention, and it’s a new thing that people have been affronted by it. I mean, over 25 years I’ve never seen that before.”
“Delaware is a very friendly state,” Senator Tom Carper said. “It’s a state where its leaders hug people young and old. We kiss babies. We do it in public.” Delaware senator Chris Coons told Politico that the allegations would not deter Biden from entering the race: “I’m confident he’s going to run.”
“I don’t think that this disqualifies him from being president,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Monday evening, according to The Hill. “Not at all.”
On that point, Biden’s accuser Lucy Flores concurs. While Flores hopes Biden won’t seek or win the Democratic nomination, she told CBS on Monday that her vote in a general election matchup between Trump and Biden would be easy: “That’s not even a question. Of course, I would support Biden.”