A former congressional aide to Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) says former vice president Joe Biden touched her inappropriately at a 2009 fundraiser, the second woman to make allegations against Biden in the past week.
Biden has long been known for his intimate physical style. But the appropriateness of his behavior toward women is coming under scrutiny as he nears an announcement on a potential 2020 presidential bid. Late last week, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state legislator, penned an essay in which she said that Biden acted inappropriately toward her at a 2014 campaign event and made her feel uncomfortable.
In a statement Monday, the former congressional aide, Amy Lappos, said she was speaking out about her own experience because she was disappointed in the “ridiculously dismissive” way Democrats — including Biden — had responded to Flores’s account.
“Biden’s statement in response to Lucy’s article was not only disturbing, it was disgusting,” Lappos said. “I stand by Lucy and any woman with the courage to come forward regarding inappropriate behavior by men.”
In a comment Sunday on a “Connecticut Women in Politics” Facebook post that shared Flores’s story, Lappos said Biden “did something similar to me” at a Greenwich, Conn., fundraiser for Himes.
“I can speak from experience when I say it’s an incredibly uncomfortable situation and not at all acceptable,” Lappos wrote under the pseudonym “Alice Paul,” according to the Hartford Courant. “We need to hold our men to the same standards we hold all men.”
The “Alice Paul” account includes photos of Lappos and has pictures in common with Lappos’s personal Facebook account.
Lappos, 43, went on the record about the alleged incident in an interview Monday with the Courant. She said Biden, then 66, moved toward her while she was in the kitchen with several other volunteers at the private residence where the fundraiser was being held.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” she told the newspaper. “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 worked as an aide to Himes from January 2009 to November 2016, primarily as a constituent services representative and grants coordinator, according to Legistorm, a congressional research firm. Her LinkedIn page lists her as the owner of Moma Grants, a freelance grant-writing service.
A Biden spokesman referred The Washington Post to a statement the former vice president issued on Sunday, in which Biden said he had offered “countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” during his years in public life,“and not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately.”
A Himes spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The news comes days after Flores said in her piece for New York magazine’s The Cut that Biden approached her from behind during a 2014 campaign rally, placed his hands on her shoulders, moved closer to her and planted a “big slow kiss” on the back of her head. She said Sunday that his behavior had made her feel “powerless” and “like I couldn’t move.”
It also comes as Biden is under increasing pressure from women’s rights groups, prominent African American leaders and other supporters of Anita Hill to acknowledge his responsibility for his handling of the 1991 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the hearing took place; he recently sparked a backlash when he said he regretted that he “couldn’t come up with a way to get [Hill] the kind of hearing she deserved.”
In her statement Monday, Lappos said she believes referring to Biden’s behavior as “simply affection” or “grandpa-like” or “friendly” is “part of the problem.”
“Uninvited affection is not okay. Objectifying women is not okay. Men who invade a woman’s personal space, touch women inappropriately, sexually harass women and feed rape culture have no place in a position of power,” she said.
She called on Biden and the other Democratic men running for the White House to “step aside and support one of the many talented and qualified women running.”
Lappos told the Hartford Courant she did not report the alleged 2009 incident at the time because “he was the vice president. I was a nobody.” She said she believed Biden’s behavior had crossed a line of “decency” and “respect.”
The $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser took place Oct. 5, 2009, at the Greenwich, Conn., home of Ron Moelis, an affordable-housing developer. The event was covered for the Stamford Advocate by Neil Vigdor, the reporter who broke the story about Lappos’s allegations on Monday for the Courant.
According to Vigdor’s 2009 piece, Biden spoke for about 19 minutes on the Moelis home’s rear terrace to an audience of 150 Connecticut Democrats, including Richard Blumenthal and Dannel Malloy. Blumenthal, now the state’s senior senator, was then the state’s attorney general; Malloy, who served as governor from 2011 to 2019, was then the mayor of Stamford.
Guests ate ahi tuna BLTs, beef tenderloin and key-lime tartlets for lunch while Biden touted Himes’s record, according to Vigdor’s story.
“I’ve campaigned for a lot of congressmen over my career,” the then-vice president said of Himes. “My lord, Rhodes Scholar, Wall Street. I think we got you straight out of Central Casting.”
Himes reportedly said: “There is nobody in Washington, D.C., with the heart that Joe Biden has.”
Lappos has voted as a registered Democrat in the past, voter records show.
Her personal Facebook page prominently displays a black-and-white photo of five female Democratic presidential candidates: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii). The photo was posted on Feb. 21.
A day before her allegations were covered by the Courant, Lappos commented on Biden on Facebook, republishing text that criticized his performance during past presidential bids, along with the performance of other male presidential candidates in past elections.
“THIS- elect women already. Geeze,” she wrote.
Biden said in his Sunday statement that he will “listen respectfully” to anyone who says they believe he acted inappropriately toward them. At the same time, his team has pushed back against what it views as unfair criticism.
On Monday, Biden spokesman Bill Russo released a “Note on Recent Coverage” that highlighted the backstory behind two photos that have been widely circulated as evidence of Biden’s highly physical style.
In a 2015 photo with Stephanie Carter, wife of then-incoming Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Biden is holding her shoulders and leaning in to whisper something in her ear. Carter wrote in a Medium post on Sunday night that Biden “kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support” on the day of her husband’s swearing-in.
In 2015 photos with Maggie Coons, the then-13-year-old daughter of Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Biden is leaning toward her and whispering something before kissing the side of her head. While the girl appeared to react with discomfort, Christopher A. Coons told The Post that there was nothing inappropriate in the encounter — “she did not think of it as anything.”
Russo called these perspectives “corrections of false [narratives]” about the two episodes.
“The familiar characterizations of these two photos that have been uncritically perpetuated, turn out to be very false,” he wrote.
Coons said Monday that he believes the renewed public attention on Biden’s actions will not stop him from pursuing a 2020 White House bid.
“I’m confident he’s going to run,” the senator told Politico.