An allegation that Joe Biden inappropriately touched a Nevada state lawmaker is renewing questions about his appeal to women if he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.
The former vice president’s decades of vacillation on abortion rights and his handling of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas at Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 were already serious vulnerabilities.
If Biden launches his third campaign for president, as expected, he will be joining a crowded field of Democratic rivals that includes four women in the U.S. Senate — and at a time when women have been siding strongly with Democrats in national elections.
Beyond the primaries, the new accusation raises questions about whether Biden, in a general-election contest, would strike a weak contrast with President Donald Trump, who has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct toward women.
The 2020 presidential race is the first to occur after the explosion of the #MeToo movement, which swept record numbers of women into public office last year. Over the last 18 months, numerous powerful men in media, politics and business have lost their jobs or careers after allegations of sexual harassment or assault became public.
In a New York Magazine web post on Friday, former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores wrote that she felt demeaned and disrespected when Biden touched her offstage at a 2014 campaign rally. She said she felt Biden’s hands on her shoulders and froze.
“He leaned further in and inhaled my hair,” she wrote. “I was mortified.”