Pelosi has blunt advice for Biden after 2nd woman says he made her feel 'uncomfortable'

Sen. Chris Coons gave Biden an emotional vote of support.

April 2, 2019, 4:37 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday had some blunt advice for former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats had mixed reactions after a second woman came forward to say former Biden inappropriately touched her.

On Monday, Amy Lappos told ABC News affiliate WTNH that at a 2009 fundraiser in Connecticut, Biden made her feel uncomfortable after he rubbed noses with her.

“He reached over and put his hands behind my head and pulled me close and I though okay he’s going to kiss me,” Lappos recalled. “He started rubbing noses with me, and he was still holding on to my face, and rubbing noses and then stopped.”

Lappos said that she didn’t believe Biden’s behavior was sexual in nature, but left her feeling uneasy.

“It was incredibly uncomfortable, and it was not how he greeted the congressmen,” Lappos said.

When asked by ABC News for comment, Biden spokesperson Bill Russo referred ABC to the statement Biden issued after a similar accusation, saying he did not believe he acted inappropriately, but would “listen respectfully” to any suggestion he had done so.

Lucy Flores, who ran for lieutenant governor of Nevada, said in a New York Magazine essay that in 2014 Biden crossed a line when he placed his hands on her shoulders at a campaign event and kissed the back of her head.

“I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will,” Biden said in a statement on Sunday.

Asked how Flores’s story affected Biden’s thinking about 2020, a source close to Biden told ABC News “It doesn’t.”

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is joined by fellow Democrats to introduce an immigration reform bill at the Capitol in Washington, March 12, 2019.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is joined by fellow Democrats to introduce an immigration reform bill at the Capitol in Washington, March 12, 2019.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

But Biden's fellow Democrats are facing questions about his past actions, and whether they should disqualify the 76-year-old from a presidential run in 2020.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about Biden during a Politico event Tuesday morning, and while she said she does not believe the reports should disqualify him from running, she said that Biden needed to make a better apology.

“What I think it’s important for the vice president and others to understand us – it isn’t what you intended – it’s how it was received,” Pelosi said.

“To say I’m sorry that you were offended – is not an apology. I’m sorry I invaded your space, but not I’m sorry you were offended.”

Pelosi recommended Biden join her in the "straight-arm club" when it comes to physical interactions. In other words, she allows an arms length of distance for personal space.

"I'm a straight-armer," Pelosi said. "Just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez defended Biden when asked about the reports.

“I think people have known the vice president for decades and will judge him on his lifetime of service,” Perez told the Boston Globe Tuesday.

When asked if he hoped Biden would change his behavior, Perez downplayed the suggestion.

“I think people who know the vice president well understand that he’s a very warm and empathetic person. That’s who he is, and that’s been a big part of people’s affection for Joe Biden.”

In a heartfelt defense of Biden, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he believes Biden will be more ‘conscious’ of the possibility his actions could make someone uncomfortable in the future, but said he is ‘certain’ Biden will still run for president — something Coons welcomes.

“Joe Biden is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, who has always sort of dove into crowds and engaged with people and hugged them and shook hands and touched people on the shoulder and offered encouragement. That's just who Joe Biden is,” Coons said Tuesday.

“I would rather have somebody who is genuine, who is committed to caring for our country and our people, and is an optimist and engages with us than someone who lacks all of those qualities,” Coons continued.

PHOTO: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, listens during a hearing about sexual assault in the military, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, listens during a hearing about sexual assault in the military, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE

Several 2020 Democratic candidates who may face Biden in the primary have also faced questions—nearly all similarly saying Biden will need to address the allegations if he decides to run, but stopped short of saying it should prevent him from entering the race.

“Lucy Flores felt demeaned, and that's never okay,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Monday, referencing the former Nevada lawmaker who said Biden made her feel uncomfortable when he kissed the back of her head and put his hands on her shoulders at a 2014 campaign event.

“If Vice President Biden decides to run for president, this is something he's going to have to address directly with the American people,” Gillibrand told reporters.

Biden has no public events scheduled until April 11, when he is slated to appear at a University of Pennsylvania panel discussion about the opioid crisis.

But Biden’s team is not saying silent. Russo issued a lengthy compilation of statements of women who know and have worked for Biden defending the former vice president’s treatment of women, including former Sen. Carol Mosley Brawn, D-Ill., actress Alyssa Milano, who has worked with Biden on women’s issues, and ‘The View’ co-host, Meghan McCain.

McCain, the daughter of the late Republican Sen. John McCain and a Republican herself, said she appreciated Biden's "empathy" and wished there was more of it -- not less -- in politics.

Last year, Biden and McCain had an emotional, teary moment on "The View" when Biden told Meghan her father was strong and would put up a good fight in his cancer battle. Biden's son died in 2015 of the same type of cancer McCain had.

In a tweet Monday, McCain called Biden one of the "truly decent and compassionate men in all of American politics" and commended him for helping her through her father's diagnosis, treatment and passing "more than any of [her] father's friends combined."

"I wish there was more empathy from our politicians not less," she tweeted.

Valerie Jarrett, a longtime senior adviser to the Obamas who worked in the White House for eight years, including with Biden, appeared on "The View" Tuesday. She said she had a similar encounter with Biden when her own father died.

"He is very demonstrative. I think everyone who knows him knows that, you mentioned how he was with you," Jarrett said to McCain. "When my dad died, he came up to my office, he was very empathetic, he is that demonstrative."

Biden never made her feel uncomfortable, she said, but also said it's not relevant how he made her feel -- it's how the person it's directed at is feeling, which Jarrett said Biden addressed in his response over the weekend when he said he would "listen respectfully."

"It's not really relevant that he didn't make me feel uncomfortable, it's -- did he make other people feel that way?" Jarrett said.

Asked if she thought the accusations should disqualify Biden from a potential 2020 run, Jarrett said no.

"I think what's great about our country -- is that, you want to run for president, you get to run. You can make your case directly to American people and give it your best shot," Jarrett said. "So I don't think we should be disqualifying people, I think let him run. That's part of what being in a democracy is all about."

ABC News' Mariam Khan and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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