“I thought it would all blow over,” Stephanie Carter says.
Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, sought Sunday to “reclaim” a “misleadingly extracted” yet oft-mocked picture of her and Joe Biden that has resurfaced amid accusations that the former vice president acted inappropriately toward a female Nevada state assemblywoman in 2014.
The photograph, taken at the White House in February 2015 during Ash Carter’s swearing-in ceremony to lead the Pentagon, captures Biden standing behind Stephanie Carter and whispering into her ear as his hands rest on her shoulders.
The scene is not dissimilar from the one Lucy Flores alleges took place at a Las Vegas rally five years ago, when she says Biden leaned in to smell her hair and plant an “awkward kiss” on the back of her head. Flores was then Nevada’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
Those claims, made by Flores in an essay published Friday in The Cut, have roiled Biden’s prospective 2020 presidential candidacy and raised new concerns among Democrats regarding his often touchy-feely interactions with voters and government officials across a half-century of public service — evincing fresh doubts about Biden’s political viability in the era of #MeToo.
But in a blog post published Sunday on Medium, Carter wrote that Biden’s display of affection toward her in 2015 was appreciated, as she was “uncharacteristically nervous” after slipping on some ice upon her arrival at the Pentagon earlier in the day.
“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. “But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.”
Carter wrote that she and her husband had previously known Biden and his wife, Jill, “for many years, long before he had become vice president,” and revealed that she expressed her condolences to the couple about the media’s coverage of the incident.
“I told them I felt awful that after he had generously taken time out of his day to swear in an old friend, his attempt to support me had become a joke and even more — supposed proof positive that he didn’t understand how to respect women,” Carter wrote. “I thought it would all blow over if I didn’t dignify it with a response. But clearly that was wishful thinking.”
Carter also wrote that while she does not know Flores, she supports “her right to speak her truth,” adding that Flores and “all women” should be believed.
“But her story is not mine. 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. “So, as the sole owner of my story, it is high time that I reclaim it — from strangers, Twitter, the pundits and the late-night hosts.”
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