A second woman has accused former US Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriate touching, just as the Democrat heavyweight is considering launching a campaign for the 2020 presidency.
Amy Lappos, 43, told the Connecticut-based Hartford Courant newspaper on Monday that Biden rubbed noses with her during a 2009 fundraiser in the town of Greenwich.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Lappos said. “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.”
Lappos, then a congressional aide to Congressman Jim Hines, said she never filed a complaint “because he was the vice president. I was a nobody.”
“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,” she added.
Her complaint comes just three days after Lucy Flores, a former member of the Nevada Assembly, said Biden kissed her on the back of the head at a campaign event in 2014.
In response to that allegation, Biden said he believed he had never 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,” Biden said.
Intimate campaign style
Biden, 76, served as the vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
He has yet to declare his presidential candidacy, but is already the early favourite to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Republican President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The latest accusations underscored the challenge facing Biden should he decide to seek the White House.
In a statement on Monday, Biden’s 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.
Some Biden supporters rallied to his defence, with Elizabeth Alexander, a former Senate and White House aide to Biden, writing in a USA Today column that he supported women and was a champion for their rights even when it was not politically expedient.
Biden has long been known for a warm and intimate campaign style, but his propensity for hugging and physical touching has come under new scrutiny in the #MeToo era as awareness about sexual assault and harassment has grown.
He came under criticism for massaging the shoulders of Ash Carter’s wife in 2015 as her husband was sworn in as secretary of defence.
Photographs of that incident have circulated online so frequently that Stephanie Carter posted a column on Sunday saying Biden was merely “a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful.”