Actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano is defending former Vice President Joe Biden amid allegations that he inappropriately touched women several years ago.
“I am proud to call Joe Biden a friend. He has been a leader and a champion on fighting violence against women for many years, and I have been fortunate enough to accompany him to events with survivors where he has listened to their stories, empathized with them, and comforted them,” Milano wrote in a series of tweets Monday night.
“That’s who Joe Biden is — a warm, generous individual who believes it’s on all of us to pay attention to women’s stories and experiences.”
The “Charmed” star also praised the potential 2020 contender for “It’s on Us,” a national movement aimed at highlighting sexual assault on colleges campuses for both men and women, which he helped establish under former President Barack Obama.
Milano’s statement came hours after a Hartford Courant story detailed an uncomfortable encounter Amy Lappos said she shared with Biden during a 2009 political fundraiser in Connecticut. She claimed he touched her and rubbed his nose against her own.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” she said. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
Days earlier, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state legislator, in an op-ed for New York Magazine’s The Cut recalled a similar incident with Biden. She said he put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head at a Las Vegas campaign rally in 2014.
She was running for Nevada lieutenant governor at the time.
“I froze. Why is the vice president of the United States touching me?” she wrote, adding that the interaction left her feeling “uneasy, gross and confused.”
Milano maintained that while she respected the women for coming forward, she believed that her friend “never meant to make anyone uncomfortable.”
“I respect Lucy Flores’ decision to share her story and agree with Biden that we must all pay attention to it. But just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same,” she concluded.
“I believe that Joe Biden’s intent has never been to make anyone uncomfortable, and that his kind empathetic leadership is what our country needs. Especially now.”
Milano — who has been credited with popularizing the #MeToo campaign founded by Tarana Burke — has sparked allegations of hypocrisy over her defense for Biden.
Many of her critics pointed out the difference in her response regarding allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when Milano supported accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
A photo of her glaring at Kavanaugh as he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee — a booklet with the words “I believe Survivors” in her hands — quickly went viral in wake of the hearings.
“I’m in D.C because I don’t believe any mans’ misogyny should take precedent over a survivor’s humanity,” she tweeted at the end of September.
Danny Deraney, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Deraney Public Relations, acknowledged Milano’s contribution to the women’s rights movement but questioned the optics of her twitter thread.
“This is Lucy’s truth and what she felt, and we have to be supportive of that. The story of the accuser should be believed until proven otherwise,” he said.
Deraney added that’s not to say people should automatically grab the “torch and pitchfork,” but that they should listen without dismissing claims based on friendship and political standing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the former vice president facing accusations or “Jeff from Home Depot,” everyone coming forward should be heard, he said.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t sit there and be an advocate and then say well this is my best friend. Instead you can say things like, ‘We all have to be better,'” Deraney concluded.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the few 2020 Democratic presidential contenders to wade into the discussion, had similar feelings on the matter.
“Lucy Flores felt demeaned and that is never okay,” she said. “If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he’ll have to engage in.”
Biden denied wrongdoing in wake of allegations against him, saying that he offered “expressions of affection,” but “not once” felt he’d ever made anyone uncomfortable.
“If it is suggested that I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear,” he said.
“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.”
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