Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke became the latest 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful to weigh in on the allegations of unwanted touching and kissing leveled against former Vice President Joe Biden.
O’Rourke, who currently sits third in the polls alongside Sen. Kamala Harris of California and behind Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, praised the “courage” of the women who have come forward to accuse the former vice president of inappropriate behavior.
“We need to listen to those who are raising their stories who have the courage to come forward to share their experience and also to be part of the conversation about either his candidacy or how he fares as a contender for the nomination if he jumps in,” O’Rourke said Wednesday during an appearance at the National Action Network conference.
O’Rourke added: “I think ultimately that will be a decision for him to make but I’m glad people are willing to and have the courage to step up. They must be heard and must be listened to.”
The mounting scandal surrounding Biden, who has yet to officially enter the 2020 Democratic fray despite being seen as the frontrunner to challenge President Trump in the general election, started with allegations made by former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores that Biden kissed her on the back of her head during a 2014 campaign rally supporting her bid for lieutenant governor.
Flores made the accusations in a piece in New York magazine in which she accused the former vice president of approaching her from behind, putting his hands on her shoulders, sniffing her hair and kissing her on the back of the head.
"The vice president of the United States of America had just touched me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it," she wrote.
Since then three other women have come forward to accuse Biden of unwanted touching during public events.
Amy Lappos, a former aide to Connecticut Democrat Rep. Jim Himes, claims Biden grabbed her during a $1,000-per-plate October 2009 fundraiser.
“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head," Lappos said. “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.”
The New York Times reported that writer D.J. Hill said Biden in 2012 put his hand on her shoulder, then dropped it down her back in a way that made her "very uncomfortable" while Hill and her husband posed for pictures with him at a fundraiser in Minneapolis. Former college student Caitlyn Caruso also told the paper that Biden "rested his hand on her thigh — even as she squirmed in her seat to show her discomfort — and hugged her 'just a little bit too long' at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Biden’s prospective Democratic opponents have been quick to weigh in, with many expressing support for his accusers while questioning whether or not Biden should enter the 2020 race.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told ABC's “This Week” on Sunday that she has no reason to doubt the allegations made by Flores. Sanders said during an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation” – when only Flores’ allegation was made public - that while he has no reason not to believe Flores, he doesn’t believe that “one incident alone” would disqualify Biden from running for the White House.
“That’s a decision for the vice president to make," Sanders said. "I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody."
Biden – who is expected to soon launch his 2020 presidential bid – has denied ever acting inappropriately toward Flores and his spokesperson referred Fox News' requests for comment on the new allegation to Biden's earlier statements.
"In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden said in his own statement Sunday. "And not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."
Biden added: "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.”
Fox News’ Bryan Llenas and Gregg Re contributed to this report.