Crisis hits Biden as new allegation emerges

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions Resurfaced Buttigieg yearbook named him 'most likely to be president' MORE is facing a crisis before the launch of his expected White House campaign after a second woman on Monday accused him of inappropriate touching.

The allegations have shined the spotlight on Biden’s interactions with women, leading to new questions about the appropriateness of his behavior and testing his relationships with Democrats in the “Me Too” era.

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Amy Lappos became the second woman in four days to accuse Biden of inappropriate behavior when she told the Hartford Courant that Biden had touched her inappropriately and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Conn.

“When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth,” Lappos, 43, told the Courant. 

On Friday, former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores, a Democrat, accused Biden of inappropriately kissing the back of her head while putting his hands on her shoulders. Flores was a candidate for lieutenant governor of the state at the time.

The stories have drawn new attention to dozens of pictures that show Biden in hugs and other embraces with different women, photos that political opponents of the vice president have used over the years to denigrate him. The conservative Drudge Report for most of Monday led its page with a collection of 10 photos of Biden and the headline “Out of touch?”

Biden’s staff on Monday pushed back hard against the narrative, describing a “cottage industry of lies” and right-wing smears.

Biden spokesman Bill Russo highlighted two photos that have been used against the vice president to underscore how he is being treated unfairly. The photos — one of Biden and Stephanie Carter, who is married to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the other of Biden with the 13-year-old daughter of Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Senate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain MORE (D-Del.) — were both being used misleadingly, Russo said.

Coons, who filled Biden’s long-held Senate seat in 2010, in an interview with The Washington Post said Biden was praising his daughter’s composure in a photo that showed him whispering in her ear.

“She did not think of it as anything,” Coons said. “All three of my kids have known Joe their whole lives.”

Stephanie Carter also came to Biden’s defense, saying the photo of her with Biden’s hands on her shoulders was “misleadingly extracted” from a longer moment at her husband’s swearing-in ceremony.  

“After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, [Biden] leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support,” she wrote. “But a still shot taken from a video  —  misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends  —  sent out in a snarky tweet  —  came to be the lasting image of that day.”

Other Democratic candidates put pressure on Biden.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions MORE (D-N.Y.), who is running for president and has made fighting sexual harassment a major part of her candidacy, on Monday said Biden needs to come clean with voters if he decides to jump in the race. 

“Lucy Flores felt demeaned, and that’s never OK. If Vice President Biden decides to run for president, this is something he’s going to have to address directly with the American people.”

Asked if the allegations if true would be disqualifying, Gillibrand said, “Based on what I’ve read, Lucy Flores feels demeaned. It’s not OK.” 

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaEnvironmentalists see victory with Green New Deal blitz Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI MORE (D-Calif.), an adviser to Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Wage growth shaping up as key 2020 factor for Trump Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' MORE’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, told reporters at a pen-and-pad briefing Monday that the allegations against Biden are serious. 

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“I think at a minimum, the vice president should acknowledge that what he did was wrong and that we need to have a change of culture in this country,” Khanna said.

Sanders on Monday declined to discuss the allegations. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBooker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions 2020 Democrats commemorate 20-year anniversary of Columbine shooting MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for president, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that she had “no reason not to believe” Flores.

Aides to other hopefuls are taking their shots at Biden, who they see as being weakened by the allegations.

One senior Democrat on another presidential campaign said the “creepy Biden” storyline has the potential to do long-term damage to the former vice president.

“If Biden’s chief argument is electability, this story eats right at that foundation,” the Democrat said. “Women are a solid majority of Democratic primary voters, and now Biden is going to have to pass a ‘creepy’ test.”

The Democratic Party has sought to take a no-tolerance approach to inappropriate sexual behavior, quickly forcing Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenWinners and losers from first fundraising quarter Election analyst says Gillibrand doesn't have 'horsepower to go the full distance' Gillibrand campaign links low fundraising to Al Franken backlash: memo MORE’s (D-Minn.) resignation after stories about his behavior and a photo of him pantomiming the groping of a sleeping woman’s breasts first surfaced.

“There’s a professional line,” the Democrat connected with a rival said. “This is the party where Franken couldn’t survive.”

Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Minn.) breathed an audible sigh when asked about Biden. 

“It’s a wide-open competition, and I think Vice President Biden is going to need to explain this and help people understand this.” 

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoLife in the minority at the FCC Dem senators call for Trump to restore release for pregnant migrants Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker MORE (D), who represents Nevada, also said she believes Flores.

“There’s no reason not to believe her. Absolutely I believe her,” she said.

Russo issued a statement for Biden on Friday that said he and his staff did not have an “inkling” Flores had been made uncomfortable by his behavior. Russo said Flores had “every right to share her own recollection and reflections.” 

Flores endorsed Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. She went on to serve on the board of Our Revolution, the advocacy group that formed out of Sanders’s campaign. 

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sanders’s 2016 campaign and John KerryJohn Forbes KerryButtigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders MORE’s 2004 presidential campaign, predicted that Biden would be able to maintain support among longtime Democratic friends.

Some Democrats, including former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, appeared on television to support Biden.

“I’ve seen some really strong women who worked with him over the years in the Senate and as vice president who have already come to TV to defend him very strongly,” Devine said. “I don’t think Joe Biden was a guy who had bad intent and did bad things. I don’t think he’s that guy at all.”

“Biden is not Trump. He’s not a guy who’s malevolent in his actions toward women. He is someone who has a great record supporting issues of concern toward women,” he added. “I don’t think this going to hurt him if he decides to get in the race in the long run because people who know him very well will stand up and support him.”

Naomi Jagoda contributed.