KORVA COLEMAN, HOST:
We're going to start our program today with a conversation about an alleged encounter between former Vice President Joe Biden and former Nevada Democratic Assemblywoman Lucy Flores. In an article for New York Magazine, Flores details an alleged encounter in 2014 with then-Vice President Biden. She calls the encounter awkward and says he grabbed her shoulders from behind, sniffed her hair and kissed the back of her head before a campaign event.
At the time, Flores says she felt embarrassed and powerless. Former Vice President Biden responded with a statement that said, quote, "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 that I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."
Lucy Flores is here to speak with us about this alleged encounter from our studios in Culver City, Calif. We should also say we have invited the former vice president to respond to the allegations in an interview, and we have not yet received a response.
Lucy Flores, thank you for being with us.
LUCY FLORES: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
COLEMAN: Ms. Flores, can you describe the encounter in your own words?
FLORES: Sure. Well, I mean, it's just as I described. It happened very suddenly. I was not expecting it. It was a campaign rally setting, so there was a lot of chaos, a lot of people, a lot of energy. We were all kind of in public. Vice President Biden and I were never alone together. So as we were waiting to be called up to the stage, the rally had already started. People were already speaking. We were waiting in line. Eva Longoria was in front of me. Joe Biden was behind me.
And, you know, I just all of a sudden feel his hands, and I feel him get up really close to me. And I'm just, you know, at that point processing, and I'm thinking, OK. This is really weird. But then he leans in, and then he, like, inhales. And then he proceeds to plant this long kiss on the top of my head. And the entire time, I'm just kind of, like, what is happening?
COLEMAN: As we mentioned, former Vice President Biden has released a statement and says if he did behave this way, he doesn't believe he acted inappropriately. What is your response to his statement?
FLORES: I need the vice president and all men and all people who are in positions of power to understand that in that setting, in that situation, that kind of behavior is absolutely inappropriate. A big part of the reason why I'm also speaking out now is because he has a history of this. This is not an unknown issue. There have been stories. There are pictures. There are videos. I think that there is a very severe disconnect and lack of empathy for what the women on the receiving end are feeling.
I understand that he's trying to clear up his intention. But it's not about your intention. Whether it was an innocent gesture, whether it was a sexual gesture - none of that matters. It is about the person on the receiving end of that inappropriate behavior by someone who is very, very clearly more powerful than you. That power dynamic is important to recognize.
COLEMAN: The organizer of the event you describe is Henry Munoz, the co-founder of the Latino Victory Project. And he released a statement Saturday night, and he says, quote, "at no time were these two leaders alone together. And I and the organization I co-founded and those in attendance do not believe that circumstances support allegations that such an event took place." What is your response to Mr. Munoz?
FLORES: Mr. Munoz needs to go and read my essay because clearly, he didn't read it. Or, if he read it, he didn't comprehend it. He specifically inquired about whether or not we were ever alone. And I never, ever stated that we were alone. In fact, I've been very clear that this was always out in public.
COLEMAN: You said in your article that you're not suggesting that Joe Biden broke any laws. Why did you wish to come forward?
FLORES: Over the years, I have seen that this type of inappropriate behavior - by Joe Biden but also by others - has not been taken seriously. And, in many ways, if the media did talk about it, they kind of talked about it jokingly and kind of giving him a pass. Like, this is just Biden being Biden. Boys will be boys. Well, I'm saying, no.
COLEMAN: So former Vice President Joe Biden is mulling a presidential run. Do you think he should run for president?
FLORES: I don't believe he should run for president. That being said, I'm not supporting any other candidate. I'm not saying these things because I'm trying to lift up anybody else. We have many, many qualified candidates, including women, and I want to continue hearing from all of them. And as far as it relates to President Biden, no, I don't believe that he should run.
COLEMAN: There's a reaction to Joe Biden generally that his behavior is possibly a generational misunderstanding - that what Biden considers, quote, "expressions of affection" others consider completely inappropriate. And what is your view about this?
FLORES: There very well could be that aspect in the same way that you have folks who are serving who - you know, up until recently, you had people who were against the Civil Rights Act and were pro-segregationists, and those people were still serving in our government. I think that culture is changing, and it's changing for the better. And that's what we need.
COLEMAN: That was Lucy Flores, a former state Democratic assemblywoman from Nevada.
Ms. Flores, thank you for being with us.
FLORES: Thanks for having me.
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