Joe Biden's staff pushes back against false interpretation of photos

Photos resurfaced this weekend after fresh allegations of inappropriate contact.

April 1, 2019, 6:51 PM

As discussions continue about an allegation of inappropriate conduct by former Vice President Joe Biden, his team is pushing back -- not against Lucy Flores’ account -- but the use of other photos as evidence of similar instances when he allegedly crossed a line between affection and inappropriate.

In a statement, Biden spokesperson Bill Russo specifically references two photos: one of Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and one of Sen. Chris Coons’ daughter. Both images have been cited as examples of Biden going too far and making women feel uncomfortable, following allegations over the weekend by Flores, who ran for lieutenant governor of Nevada in 2014. In a New York Magazine essay, she said Biden crossed a line when he placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed the back of her head. She cited the photo of Carter and Biden in her essay.

"Here’s the problem: in neither case is the often repeated and recirculated interpretation true. Both Stephanie Carter and Senator Coons have now felt compelled to speak out to put these ugly urban legends to rest," Russo wrote in the statement.

In a Medium post on Sunday night, Stephanie Carter wrote about a photo of her and Biden with his hands on her shoulders, whispering in her ear.

"The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful," Carter wrote.

She wrote that she felt "uncharacteristically nervous" after falling on the ice before her husband's swearing-in ceremony and that Biden was offering support when the photo was taken in 2015.

"After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, he 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," Carter wrote.

She referenced Flores' account in the post.

"I don’t know [Flores], but I absolutely support her right to speak her truth and she should be, like all women, believed," Carter wrote. "But her story is not mine."

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards, March 26, 2019, in New York.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards, March 26, 2019, in New York.
Frank Franklin Ii/AP, FILE

Coons, D-Del., spoke to the Washington Post on Saturday about a photo of his daughter at his 2015 Senate swearing-in ceremony. In the photo, she appeared uncomfortable as Biden whispered in her ear, but Coons told the Post that his children view Biden as a grandfather figure and that Biden was praising his daughter’s composure when the photo was taken.

"She did not think of it as anything," Coons told the newspaper. "All three of my kids have known Joe their whole lives."

In defending Biden, Russo said that the former vice president has made it clear in his statement that women should be believed and heard when they feel uncomfortable, but said the incorrect use of these photos does not add to that conversation.

"He has said that he believes that women who have experience[d] any such discomfort, regardless of intention, should speak and be heard, and that he will be among those who listen," Russo said.

"The important conversation about these issues are not advanced, nor are any criticisms of Vice President Biden validated, by the continued misrepresentation of the Carter and Coons moments." .

Separately, Flores told MSNBC that she wrote about her experience with Biden because she felt that his action were being dismissed as unimportant.

"What really started to trigger me and make me think seriously about speaking out was that every single time that Joe Biden's history was talked about, this very long documented portion of his -- of his record, of his history, was left out," Flores said Sunday.

"There are videos, there are photos, there are full on compilations of him being inappropriate with women and you can see the discomfort in their faces. And it's been dismissed as if it's just Biden being Biden. Boys will be boys. No big deal. It is a big deal."

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