UPDATE: Two more women have come forward to accuse Biden of inappropriate touching, making four in all.
By David Futrelle
It’s not exactly news that Joe Biden has a groping problem. We’ve all seen the videos, year after year, of Biden playing the role of creepy uncle at event after event, pawing weirdly at the shoulders, and hips, and sometimes even the chests of women and girls in his vicinity, fussing with their hair, perhaps leaning in to whisper something in their ears or even to kiss them on the back of their head.
But up until now we haven’t heard from any of the women in these videos — or anyone else treated in a similar way when the cameras weren’t near. No more. On Friday. as you no doubt know, Democratic politician and former Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores came forward with a story about how Biden, backstage at an campaign rally, had come up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.
“I felt him get closer to me from behind,” Flores wrote in an essay published in New York magazine’s The Cut on Friday.
He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. 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 fuck? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?” He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head.
Flores didn’t appreciate Biden’s act of “friendliness.” She was, rather,
embarrassed … shocked [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. …
At that moment, she recalled, she wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole.
Now that she has come forward with her story, she may be feeling the same way — because her straightforward and eminently believable account is being attacked as a vicious lie, a smear job by a political operative who was possibly paid for her service.
Her attackers, most of them Democrats, are sounding more than a little like the MAGA-heads who attacked Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser
Christine Blasey Ford. It’s not a good look for any Democrat.
Some are asking her the same question so many Kavanaugh defenders asked about Ford: why didn’t she come forward immediately? The clear implication is that unless a woman goes public immediately with her accusations there is something fishy about her story.
There are all sorts of perfectly legitimate and understandable reasons victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault don’t come forward immediately, or ever.
And Flores has already answered this question in her piece on The Cut: He was the fucking Vice President of the United States, who was there doing her a political favor. She didn’t think his actions quite rose “to the level of what most people consider sexual assault.” If she and Biden had been working in the same office, she could (and says she would) have gone to HR; there’s no mechanism to deal with this sort of thing in politics. And then there was the reaction she knew she would get from Biden supporters.
“For years,” she writes,
I feared my experience would be dismissed. Biden will be Biden. Boys will be boys. I worried about the doubts, the threats, the insults, and the minimization. “It’s not that big of a deal. He touched her, so what?” The immediate passing of judgement and the questioning of motives. “Why now? Why so long after? She just wants attention.” Or: “It’s politically motivated.”
In the few days since her story appeared online, every single one of these fears has come true.
What made her decide to come forward at last? She says it was the videos, the same videos we’ve all seen. She couldn’t stand to see a possible future president of the US doing to other women and girls what she says he did to her.
Of course, most of Flores’ critics either haven’t heard her explanation, or they have and have decided to dismiss it. For them, it’s all a big “smear,” a political “hit job,” probably on behalf of some nefarious villain.
For a lot of the critics, that villain is Bernie Sanders.
In fact, while Flores was a Bernie supporter in 2016 and served on the board of the Bernie-friendly Our Revolution organization for a time, she hasn’t said who she’s supporting this go-around As CNN has noted, she was recently spotted at a Beto rally, and has said positive things about Kamala Harris’ campaign.
Some are even suggesting Flores — a former Nevada state assemblywoman, serial Democratic candidate, and the head of a progressive Latina advocacy group called Luz Collective — is working as an agent for … Donald Trump or some shadowy Trump-friendly right-wing cabal.
One critic even seemed to suggest a plot spearheaded by meatloaf-headed Fox News host and Trump fan Sean Hannity … and
an obscure publication called Cutter magazine?
This would be a strange conspiracy indeed, because, as far as I can tell, Cutter magazine doesn’t exist, and back when it did exist, it was not a political journal but rather a trade publication for hairstylists?
I kid. Obviously AlphaFemale is just mangling the name of the decidedly non-Hannityesque The Cut, where Flores’ piece was published, and which I’ve written for as well.
Many of Flores’ less-conspiracy minded critics think the only person she’s working for is herself — that she’s a fame-hungry nobody who just wants a moment in the spotlight.
This is, of course, exactly what many of Kavanaugh’s defenders said about Ford, who was, you may recall, so excited about her newfound fame that she literally went into hiding after her testimony to protect herself and her family from possible violence from the MAGAs who had bombarded her with threats and abuse.
Some are trying a time-tested strategy of psychological manipulation known as DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender), accusing Flores of being the real sexual harasser, because she allegedly put her hand on his shoulder first.
Never mind that a simple hand on the shoulder was never the issue. Flores, as you recall, says Biden, backstage at an event, grabbed both of her shoulders from behind, leaned forward to sniff her hair, and then “proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head.” That’s different than briefly putting not even your hand but just two fingers on the shoulder of someone taking a selfie with you in it.
But the strangest, er, argument I’ve seen against Flores is that she’s a hypocrite because … she let Bernie touch her shoulders and didn’t complain about it.
When I first ran across this argument last night, in the tweet below, I was completely taken aback.
As I put it on Twitter: yeah, it’s kind of up to Flores to decide who can put their hands on her shoulders, since they are, you know, her shoulders.
Also, I don’t see Bernie smelling her hair or planting a big wet one of the back of her head.
Remarkably, I’ve run across others making the same weird argument as Holle:
This is appalling. It’s also not going to work. Kavanaugh won his #MeToo battle because Republicans — the politicians and the voters alike — have shown that they don’t give two shits about even the most credible stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or even child molestation — at least if the alleged perp is one of them.
But Democrats — most of them, anyway — actually care about this shit, as well they should. And Flores is only the first Biden accuser to speak up. A second accuser has already come forward with another story of inappropriate touching by Biden. More will surely follow, and because of the ample video evidence of Biden’s long history of bad touches it won’t be hard for most of us to believe them.
Last night I tried watching some of the videos in a Twitter thread devoted to Biden’s creepy behavior, and I couldn’t make it past the first couple of them without literally flinching in disgust — as some of the women and girls in the videos can’t help but doing themselves. To anyone still supporting Biden, I challenge you to watch the videos in this thread. Every single one of them. And then tell me that Flores is lying and that Biden is just a friendly old uncle. I don”t think you’ll be able to. His behavior is disqualifying. It can’t be excused any longer.
2020 is going to be ugly. But it will be a lot less ugly if Biden does the right thing and takes himself out of consideration. He’s had a long political career. It’s time for it to be over.
NOTE: I’m aware that there are trolls and even presumably some Russian bots on Twitter who are eager to amplify fights between the supporters of different candidates. I’ve made a point in this post to only quote those Tweeters who seem to be legit Democrats posting sincerely and to avoid those that have small follower counts or that look fishy for other reasons. And in case you’re wondering: I have not yet chosen a candidate myself; I have some issues with everyone out there, frankly, though there are several candidates I certainly could end up supporting without too much regret. I obviously would vote for even a literal piece of shit over Trump, but I would really prefer it if that piece of shit was not named Joe Biden.
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