Warren, Castro support author of op-ed accusing Biden of inappropriate contact

Presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said Saturday that they believe the account of a former candidate for Nevada lieutenant governor who published an op-ed Friday accusing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE of "inappropriate" contact.

The two candidates for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination for president told reporters at the Heartland Forum that they believed former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who said this week that Biden leaned in and smelled her hair before kissing the back of her head at a campaign event in 2014.

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"I read the op-ed last night," Warren told reporters. "I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer."

Castro pointed to a statement a spokesman for Biden gave The Hill and other news outlets claiming that the former vice president does not remember the incident Flores described. But Castro stated that he personally believed her.

"I believe Lucy Flores," Castro told reporters. "I believe that the vice president put a statement out today on that. We need to live in a nation where we can hear her truth."

Two other 2020 candidates, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Minn.) and Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the November forum Poll: Biden holds 20-point lead in South Carolina Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (D-Md.), said that they hadn't read the story, while Delaney said that he had no reason to doubt Flores's account.

"I have no reason to doubt the woman, who I think was a state representative or ran for lieutenant governor," Delaney said. "Hand to God, I actually haven't read the story."

"I have been visiting storm areas in Iowa. I have been at town halls all day. And so I only heard about this on the radio, and I really don't have anything to add," Klobuchar said.

Flores wrote Friday in an op-ed for The Cut that Biden made "blatantly inappropriate" contact with her during the 2014 event, including kissing her head from behind in a slow embrace.

"As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. 'Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?'" Flores wrote. "I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified."

"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," she wrote.

"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 added. "That imbalance of power and attention is the whole point — and the whole problem."

Biden's spokesman said Friday that there was never any indication that Flores was uncomfortable at the time.

"Vice President Biden was pleased to support Lucy Flores’s candidacy for lieutenant governor of Nevada in 2014 and to speak on her behalf at a well-attended public event. Neither then, nor in the years since, did he or the staff with him at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes," Bill Russo said.

"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. He respects Ms. Flores as a strong and independent voice in our politics and wishes her only the best," Russo added.