WASHINGTON (AP) — Aides to Joe Biden are striking a more aggressive tone as the former vice president faces scrutiny over his past behavior toward women.

In a statement Monday, Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted "right wing trolls" from "the dark recesses of the internet" for conflating images of Biden embracing acquaintances, colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching.

The move came on a day in which a second woman said Biden had acted inappropriately, touching her face with both hands and rubbing noses with her in 2009. The allegation by Amy Lappos, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, followed a magazine essay by former Nevada politician Lucy Flores, who wrote that Biden kissed her on the back of the head in 2014.

The developments underscored the challenge facing Biden should he decide to seek the White House. Following historic wins in the 2018 midterms, Democratic politics is dominated by energy from women. The allegations could leave the 76-year-old Biden, long known for his affectionate mannerisms, appearing out of touch with the party as the Democratic presidential primary begins.

Lappos told The Associated Press that she and other Himes aides were helping out at a fundraiser in a private home in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 2009 when Biden entered the kitchen to thank the group for pitching in.

"After he finished speaking, he stopped to talk to us about how important a congressional staff is, which I thought was awesome," Lappos said.

She said she was stunned as Biden moved toward her.

"He wrapped both his hands around my face and pulled me in," said Lappos, who is now 43. "I thought, 'Oh, God, he's going to kiss me.' Instead, he rubbed noses with me." Biden said nothing, she said, then moved off. She said the experience left her feeling "weird and uncomfortable" and was "absolutely disrespectful of my personal boundaries."

The Hartford Courant first reported Lappos' assertion.

Russo didn't directly respond to Lappos, instead referring to a Sunday statement in which Biden said he doesn't believe he has acted inappropriately during his long public life. The former vice president said in that statement: "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 hasn't made a final decision on whether to run for the White House. But aides who weren't authorized to discuss internal conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity said there were no signs that his team was slowing its preparations for a campaign.

More than a dozen candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination to earn the right to face incumbent President Donald Trump.
Michael Bloomberg has filed to run in Alabama’s Democratic primary, but he hasn't decided whether he will actually run.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, shown in a 2017 file photo, has announced his entry into the Democratic primary on Nov. 14.
Former Congressman and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford suspended his campaign in November in his bid for the Republican nomination. (Source: WCSC/Gray News)
Beto O'Rourke became the latest Democrat to announce an end to presidential run in 2020. The former congressman vied unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2018 and gained name recognition during that marquee race. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Out: Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, shown in Storm Lake, Iowa, Saturday, March 30, announced April 4 that he is running for president in 2020. He dropped out in October 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik
Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden officially announce his candidacy on Thursday, with a YouTube video denouncing President Trump's response to white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, VA in 2017 and saying
en. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, is one of the strong Democratic hopefuls. But he had a health scare and had two stents recently implanted, raising questions about his health and age.. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year's Eve she is launching an exploratory committee, the first step in launching a presidential campaign. Sheis a favorite with left-leaning Democrats for her efforts to protect consumers. Warren was criticized earlier in 2018 for releasing her DNA findings to prove Native American ancestry after President Donald Trump challenged her. (Michael Swensen/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)
Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, is one of the Democratic contenders polling below 10 percent. (AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter)
Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman, says he'll challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. The tea party favorite argues that Trump is unfit for the White House. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Former Congressman Joe Sestak, center, shown in a 2016 photo with his wife Susan Sestak, left, and daughter Alex Sestak, has become the latest Democrat to enter the presidential race. The retired Navy admiral who calls himself
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced his candidacy via YouTube video. The Democratic governor of a red state is planning on taking on money in politics.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, announced May 2 he is running for president. His profile was raised after he lambasted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, on the floor of the Senate for his "crocodile tears" over the government shutdown on Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has thrown his hat in the ring officially as a Democratic contender. His profile has grown exponentially in a short time. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Bill Weld is challenging President Trump in the 2020 Republican primary. He is the first Republican to do so, saying the country is “in grave peril” and he “cannot sit quietly on the sidelines any longer,” according to the Boston Herald. He is a former Massachusetts governor and is shown in 2016 when he was running as the Libertarian vice presidential candidate as part of Gary Johnson's ticket. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche/file)
Miramar, FL, Mayor Wayne Messam, shown fifth from left at the 2015 opening of a FBI headquarters,said he's running for president and considers his status as a relative unknown as something that works in his favor. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced her candidacy in a snowstorm. She has drawn support from voters in urban, suburban and rural areas, including in dozens of counties Trump won in 2016. Klobuchar will be in Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (Source: CNN)
Marianne Williamson, a spiritual author, announced on Jan. 28 that she was running for president.
Yes, she's running. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, announced on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that she is running for president, and by some accounts, she's already a front-runner. The Senate Judiciary Committee member joined by from left, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-HI, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, in this Sept. 28, 2018, photo. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI. announced she is running for president. An early supporter of Bernie Sanders' candidacy in 2016, she also supports
Julian Castro, a Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, announced his campaign bid in San Antonio, TX. He is also a former mayor of San Antonio and has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party since delivering a speech in 2012 at the Democratic National Convention. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a Democratic congressman. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall File)
Rep. John Delaney, D-MD, speaks to fairgoers during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 10, in Des Moines, IA. He announced his intention to run for president earlier this year and is seen as a long shot to win the nomination. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Billionaire Tom Steyer has entered the 2020 presidential race, he announced July 9.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., ended his bid for the Democratic nomination Aug. 23. He is known for his recent attempt to block Nancy Pelosi from regaining the speakership in the House of Representatives. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, shown in a 2017 file photo at the California state Capitol, ended his campaign on Sept. 20 as he struggled to gain attention in the crowded Democratic field. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli/file)

Asked by the AP about the accusations against Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "I don't think that this disqualifies him from running for president, not at all." She declined to elaborate.

Biden's potential Democratic rivals haven't rushed to back him up. Over the weekend, presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand came closest to calling out the former vice president. Warren said Biden "needs to give an answer" about what occurred. Gillibrand said, "If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he'll have to engage on further."

Ultraviolet, a women's advocacy group, tweeted: "Joe Biden cannot paint himself as a champion of women and then refuse to listen and learn from a woman who says his actions demeaned her. Good intentions don't matter if the actions are inappropriate. Do better, Joe. And thank you @LucyFlores for coming forward."


Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show the congressman’s surname is Himes, not Hines.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.