Ex-con­gres­sional aide is se­cond woman to make ac­cu­sa­tion against Bi­den

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck

A for­mer con­gres­sional aide to Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., says then-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, and 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, wrote an es­say in which she said Bi­den acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately to­ward her at a 2014 cam­paign event and made her feel un­com­fort­able.

In a com­ment Sun­day on a “Con­necti­cut Women in Pol­i­tics” Facebook post that shared Flores’ story, the for­mer con­gres­sional aide, Amy 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’ per­sonal Facebook ac­count.

Lap­pos 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, 43, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an email and a phone call seek­ing com­ment.

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 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.”

Himes was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

In her in­ter­view with the Courant, Lap­pos said 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.”

“Cross­ing that line is not grand­fa­therly. It’s not cul­tural. It’s not af­fec­tion. It’s sex­ism or misog­yny,” she said.

The $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser took place Oct. 5, 2009, at the Green­wich 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’ 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 Stam­ford’s mayor at the time.

Bi­den touted Himes’ record at the event, 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 of New York, Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia, Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, and Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard of Hawaii. The photo was posted Feb. 21.

A day be­fore her al­le­ga­tions were re­ported 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 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 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 Coons told the Post that there was noth­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate in the en­counter – “she did not think of it as any­thing.”

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