House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who on Monday defended Joe Biden after two women complained about him touching them inappropriately, changed her tune on Tuesday.
“Join the straight-arm club,” Pelosi said in advice to Biden during a Washington breakfast event on Tuesday. “Just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold,” the California Democrat said.
The Speaker said Biden “has to understand that in the world we are in now people’s space is important to them and what’s important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it,” the Associated Press reported.
Last week, Lucy Flores, a former Democratic Nevada assemblywoman who was running for higher office, came out with allegations that Biden inappropriately touched her during a campaign rally in 2014, saying she felt uncomfortable and demeaned by his touching. Then on Monday, another woman came forward with new allegations. Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant that “Biden touched her inappropriately and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 political fundraiser in Greenwich when he was vice president.”
Pelosi initially said the new allegations against the former vice president should affect Biden’s run for the presidency, which he has not yet announced. Asked on Monday if she thinks the claims from two women should prevent Biden from being president, Pelosi said: “No. No, I do not.”
“I don’t think that this disqualifies him from being president,” the California Democrat said. “Not at all.”
Lappos, the second woman to come out, said the touching by Biden “wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” the Hartford Courant reported. “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.”
And she said Biden crossed the line. “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.”
Meanwhile, Democrats running for president, have not defended Biden.
“I believe Lucy Flores,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in Iowa on Sunday. “And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.” When Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was asked if Flores’ allegation disqualifies Biden from running for president, he said: “That’s a decision for the vice president to make.”
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a 2020 candidate, said Biden’s actions were cause for concern. “Certainly, I think it’s very disconcerting and I think that women have to be heard and we should start by believing them.” And another candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she has “no reason not to believe” Flores.
“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,” she said on Sunday.
“In a statement on Monday, Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted ‘right wing trolls’ from ‘the dark recesses of the internet’ for conflating images of Biden embracing acquaintances, colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching,” the AP wrote.
Biden on Sunday defended his touchy-feely past — which he called “expressions of affection” — and said he did not believe he “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. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully,” he said in a statement. “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.”