Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed, for the first time, the allegation made against him by former Senate staffer Tara Reade. Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on May 1, Biden vehemently denied Reade’s accusation that he allegedly sexually assaulted her in 1993, telling co-host Mika Brzezinski that, “it is not true, I’m saying it unequivocally; it never happened. It never, never happened. I don’t remember any type of complaint — it was 27 years ago — nor does anyone I know. The fact is, I don’t remember any complaint made.” Biden’s campaign put out a statement before the interview, saying that he would be requesting the Secretary of the Senate (Julie E. Adams) to search through the National Archives to identify any record of Reade making a complaint against him. He told Brzezinski that he’s “not worried” that they will find any such record; “nobody brought [a complaint] to me. Nobody at my Senate office at the time is aware of such complaint. I’m not worried about it at all. If it’s there, put it out.”
Biden said that his views that all women should be believed when they make assault allegation still stands, but stressed that those allegations should be vetted and proved before being considered fact. “From the very beginning, I said believing women means taking their claims seriously. When they step forward, look into it. Women have the right to be heard and their claims vetted… but in this case, the claims are false.” Biden also denied that Reade was ever asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). He said that he will not “attack” Reade, and respects that she “has has a right to say what she wants to say. But I’m going to look at the facts.”
“Any woman should come forward and be heard, and then they should be investigated. If case is made, she should be believed. The truth matters. These claims are not true. I don’t know what else to say to you,” he told Brzezinski as she continued to press him about the allegation. “Women should be believed; then you have to look into the facts. There’s so many inconsistencies in what’s been said in this case. I assure you: it did not happen.”
Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee for president, was the Senator from Delaware at the time of the alleged incident. Reade, now 56, told journalist Katie Halper during a March 25, 2020 podcast interview that in the spring of 1993, Biden allegedly pinned her against a wall in a “semiprivate” area of a Senate building, reached under her clothes, and penetrated her with his fingers. Reade, who worked as a staff assistant helping manage Biden’s office interns from December 2012 to August 1993, claims that Biden allegedly kissed her and said “you’re nothing to me” when she pulled away. She told Halper that this hurt “almost more than the assault” because of the respect she had for the senator. She claimed that she told her mother, who passed in 2012, her brother, and friends about the alleged incident after it happened.
Reade filed a police report on April 9, 2020 in Washington, DC, claiming she was the victim of a sexual assault in 1993. She did not name Biden in the complaint, and tweeted that she filed it for “safety reasons,” acknowledging that the statute of limitations for the alleged crime had run out. She also thanked celebrities Susan Sarandon, John Cusack, and Rose McGowan, one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement, for their support. “Gratitude for all who have stood by me,” Reade wrote. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press launched exhaustive investigations into her claims days later.
Joe Biden, asked on @Morning_Joe if he sexually assaulted Tara Reade:
“No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.” pic.twitter.com/nXIAdGloG5
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 1, 2020
Biden’s office shot down Reade’s allegation, and has continued to do so. Biden’s communications director and deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said in a statement to media outlets: “Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”
Reade’s brother initially told The Washington Post that she told him about an “inappropriate” incident with Biden, but did not reveal the alleged assault. He changed his story later, telling the outlet that Reade had told him about it. A number of former Biden staffers, some who worked alongside Reade in the 1990s, have firmly denied her allegation. Biden’s camp released a statement from Marianne Baker, Biden’s executive assistant from 1982 to 2000: “I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone,” she said. “I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager.” Reade claims that she had told Baker about alleged sexual harassment by Biden at the time.
Reade also allegedly complained to two top Biden aides, Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman, about alleged harassment, claiming that they “declined” to take action. Kaufman, Biden’s former chief of staff (and his friend), told The New York Times that he didn’t know Reade and that she didn’t tell him anything. Toner, Biden’s deputy chief of staff at the time, called the allegation “preposterous.”
Business Insider interviewed two of Reade’s friends, who corroborated certain details of Reade’s sexual assault claims. Lynda LaCasse, one of Reade’s neighbors in the mid-1990s, said Reade told her in 1995 of 1996 about Biden: “I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him,” LaCasse said. “And he kind of put her up against a wall. And he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her.” Lorraine Sanchez, one of Reade’s co-workers when they worked for a California state senator, said that Reade told her she was sexually harassed by “her former boss while she was in DC,” but did not go into detail.
Reade was one of the eight women who came forward in spring 2019 to accuse Biden of alleged inappropriate behavior that made them feel uncomfortable. At the time, Reade told The New York Times that Biden allegedly touched her neck and hair, making her “uncomfortable,” but didn’t reveal her sexual assault claims. Reade explained to the outlet now that she didn’t disclose the allegation in 2019 because she was “scared.” After her initial complaint, she said she faced death threats and accusations that she was a Russian agent, which she has denied.
Reade has been criticized for coming forward with her allegation only after Biden became the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee for president. She said that her account has nothing to do with politics, describing herself to The New York Times as a “third generation Democrat.” She originally favored Marianne Williamson and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 race, but voted for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the California primary. She denied that the Sanders campaign or President Donald Trump‘s reelection campaign encouraged her to come forward. Trump has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by a staggering 25 women, including his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, who accused him of raping her during their marriage, and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claims he assaulted her in a store’s dressing room. Ivana later retracted her allegation. Trump has denied all allegations against him.
Some are also skeptical about Reade’s claims after finding that she tweeted praise for Biden and his work combating sexual assault in 2017 (now deleted). During her time in Biden’s office, the then-Senator was working to pass the Violence Against Women Act.
Biden has pledged to select a female vice president for his 2020 ticket and has support from several top female politicians. Former Georgia House representative and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, thought to be at the top of Biden’s VP list, told CNN, “I believe that women deserve to be heard and I believe they need to be listened to, but I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources.”
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of Biden’s former 2020 presidential opponents, said she also believes him. He has the formal endorsements of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who worked alongside him in the Obama administration.