Lucy Flores wrote that the former vice president made her feel "uneasy, gross and confused" at a 2014 event
Lucy Flores, a former Nevada politician, has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head without consent.
In a new article penned by Flores and published by The Cut on Friday, Flores says the alleged incident occurred in 2014, when she was 35 years old and running for lieutenant governor in Nevada. Biden, then the vice president, went to a campaign rally in November of that year to support Flores and other fellow Democrats running for office in the state.
Flores alleges that, while the speakers at the rally were backstage lining up before the event, she felt Biden, now 76, touch both of her shoulders and kiss her on the back of the head.
“As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders,” Flores writes. “I froze. ‘Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?'”
“I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair,” she continued. “I was mortified. I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual f—? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?'”
Flores added: “He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
Biden’s office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but a spokesperson told the Washington Post and other outlets that neither Biden nor his staff had “an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes.”
“But Vice President Biden believes that Ms. Flores has every right to share her own recollection and reflections, and that it is a change for better in our society that she has the opportunity to do so,” his spokesperson said. “He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best.”
“By then, as a young Latina in politics, I had gotten used to feeling like an outsider in rooms dominated by white men,” Flores wrote of her perspective in her piece for The Cut. “But I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate and unnerving before.”
“Biden was the second-most powerful man in the country and, arguably, one of the most powerful men in the world,” Flores continued. “He was there to promote me as the right person for the lieutenant governor job. Instead, he made me feel uneasy, gross, and confused. The vice-president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it.”
Flores acknowledged that what Biden did was not illegal, but rather discussed the incident in the context of an “imbalance of power.” As Flores noted in her piece and Vox reported, Biden has a public history of touching women.
“I’m not suggesting that Biden broke any laws, but the transgressions that society deems minor (or doesn’t even see as transgressions) often feel considerable to the person on the receiving end,” she ended the piece. “That imbalance of power and attention is the whole point — and the whole problem.”
Though Biden has not yet announced his 2020 candidacy for president, he is widely expected to do so soon. In December, the politician said he would make a decision about running within two months.
“I’ll be as straight with you as I can: I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” he said then, during a December appearance at the University of Montana. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”
Biden has also recently come under fire for his handling of the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Tuesday night, he reportedly addressed his central role in giving a public hearing for Hill, who had accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the high court, of sexual harassment. Thomas has always vigorously denied Hill’s account.
In the intervening years, and especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Hill’s allegations and her treatment at the time have been re-examined — which Biden acknowledged in his Tuesday comments, saying per the Associated Press: “To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something.”