After weeks of silence, former Vice President Joe Biden vehemently denied allegations by a former aide who claims he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. “They aren’t true,” the presumptive Democratic 2020 nominee said in his first public statement on the allegations. “This never happened.” Biden released a long statement Friday morning before going on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the allegations by Tara Reade that have been getting increased attention in the media over the past few weeks.
In late March, Reade, who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office, accused Biden in an interview of pinning her against a wall in 1993, reaching under her skirt and pushing his fingers inside her. Reade, who worked in Biden’s office from December 1992 to August 1993, had previously detailed claims of inappropriate touching that made her feel uncomfortable but did not accuse him of sexual assault. For weeks, pressure has been growing on the former vice president to address the allegations as Biden’s campaign only issued a denial from a deputy campaign manager. Former staffers also said they did not recall Reade ever raising any complaints about Biden’s conduct.
When he finally did speak up Friday, Biden made his position clear. “No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened,” Biden said when asked on MSNBC about the allegation. “And it didn’t. It never happened.” In his statement, Biden emphasized the work he has done to combat sexual harassment and said that women “should be heard, not silenced” when they step forward. But at the same time, it is important to subject “their stories” to “appropriate inquiry and scrutiny,” he added. Biden called on “responsible news organizations” to “valuate the full and growing record of inconsistencies” in Reade’s story. Biden also noted that everyone who worked for him denied Reade ever raised issues with them but pointed out “there is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified.” That refers to Reade’s claim she filed a complaint with a congressional office and has called on Biden to release records of his time in the Senate that are at the University of Delaware. Biden said those papers “do not contain personnel files” but called on the Senate to ask the National Archives to release any record of the complaint. “If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there,” he said.
Reade’s allegations have gained ground in recent weeks as several news outlets talked to a friend who said Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time. Her brother also confirmed parts of her account although his story has evolved as he first told the Washington Post that Biden had inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders but days later said he recalled his sister had told him Biden had put his hand “under her clothes.” A video has also emerged that appears to show Reade’s mother calling into CNN’s Larry King Live in 1993 to discuss problems her daughter experienced while working for a “prominent senator.” More recently, a former neighbor also came forward to say that Reade told her about the alleged assault in the mid-1990s. Others, however, have said that Reade spoke positively about her work in Biden’s office.
During the interview with MSNBC, Biden said he was “not going to go in and question her motive” and was “not going to attack her” but did highlight that “there are so many inconsistencies.” When he was asked what he would tell Reade, he once again raised the question of what could be behind her claims. “I don’t know what is motivating her. I don’t know what is behind any of it but it is irrelevant,” he said. “It never happened. It never happened, period.”
For more on the allegation against Biden, listen to this week’s Political Gabfest.