Allegations test Biden ahead of 2020 run

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping MORE, accused of inappropriately touching and kissing a former Nevada lawmaker in 2014, is facing his own #MeToo moment ahead of a likely 2020 run.

After the ex-state official, Democrat Lucy Flores, came forward with the allegations on Friday, a number of Democrats raised concerns about Biden's campaign on the Sunday shows circuit, with many saying they believe her accusation.

Biden, who also faced criticism Sunday from the White House, said in a statement Sunday that he has “offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort" but doesn’t believe he ever acted inappropriately.

"If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” he added.

But in the #MeToo era, Biden is likely to face ongoing questions over the alleged incident, which serves as an early test for a campaign that has yet to officially launch.

Flores said in an essay published Friday in New York Magazine's The Cut that Biden touched her shoulders and kissed the back of her head before a Nevada campaign event in 2014. 

"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?'" she wrote.

"I felt him get closer to me from behind. 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," she added.

Appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Flores called on Biden to “acknowledge that it was wrong.” She also said she believes the alleged incident is “disqualifying” for a presidential run but added that “it’s up to everybody else to make that decision.”

Other Democrats — including several of Biden’s 2020 rivals — stopped short of calling the accusation disqualifying on Sunday, though they indicated they believe Flores and that Biden needs to face more questions. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids Manchin: 'I think we'll get a framework' deal MORE (I-Vt.), who along with Biden has been leading the Democratic field in most polling, said during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he has “no reason not to believe Lucy.” But Sanders added that it’s for Biden to decide  whether he thinks the incident is disqualifying.

“I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody. But … this is an issue not just that Democrats or Republicans, the entire country has got to take seriously,” Sanders said.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharPaid family leave proposal at risk Top Arizona elections official says violent threats fueling worker turnover Infrastructure bill carves out boosts to first responders, wildland firefighters MORE (D-Minn.), another 2020 contender, also said she has “no reason not to believe” Flores, adding on ABC’s “This Week” that Biden “will have to” address the accusation with voters if he enters the race.

Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Ohio GOP congressman tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district MORE (D), also a 2020 presidential candidate, called the accusation “very disconcerting” during an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Certainly, I think it’s very disconcerting and I think that women have to be heard and we should start by believing them,” Hickenlooper said. 

Those comments came after Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate Democrats propose corporate minimum tax for spending package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting Democrats face critical 72 hours MORE (D-Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro (D), two more 2020 candidates, each said Saturday that they believed Flores.

The White House on Sunday also weighed in, with White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayEthics watchdog accuses Psaki of violating Hatch Act Biden administration competency doubts increase Cook Political Report shifts Virginia governor's race to 'toss-up' MORE calling the allegation a “big problem” for Biden.

I think Joe Biden has a big problem here because he calls it affection and handshakes. His party calls it completely inappropriate," Conway said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday” while also calling Flores “bold” for coming forward. 

In her essay Wednesday in New York Magazine, Flores wrote that Biden’s potential bid for the presidency was what prompted her to share her story.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t carefully consider all of this before deciding to speak,” she wrote. “But hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer.”