Dear Commons Community,
Joe Biden publicly responded for the first time to a sexual assault allegation against him made by Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer.
“I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago,” he said in a lengthy statement released Friday ahead of an interview (see video above) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They aren’t true. This never happened.”
The statement goes on:
“She has said she raised some of these issues with her supervisor and senior staffers from my office at the time. They – both men and a woman – have said, unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues. News organizations that have talked with literally dozens of former staffers have not found one – not one – who corroborated her allegations in any way. Indeed, many of them spoke to the culture of an office that would not have tolerated harassment in any way – as indeed I would not have.
There is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified. The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993. But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint. The papers from my Senate years that I donated to the University of Delaware do not contain personnel files. It is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record: speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills.
There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be – the National Archives. The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”
Biden’s presidential campaign has also denied Reade’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she worked as a staff assistant in his Senate office. Reade said the then-senator pushed her against a wall, reached up her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers while she was delivering a duffel bag to him at her manager’s request.
But until now, Biden himself has not addressed the claim.
“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women,” Kate Bedingfield, communications director for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement April 13.
“He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act,” Bedingfield continued. “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 was one of at least eight women last year to publicly accuse Biden of inappropriate touching. She said at the time that she worked in his Senate office when she was in her mid-20s and that he would make her uncomfortable by running his fingers up her neck or putting his hand on her shoulder.
Biden, in response to the allegations of inappropriate touching, acknowledged last year that “social norms are changing.” He said he would be “more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”
Reade expanded on her allegation in March in separate interviews with The Intercept and with podcast host Katie Halper, detailing her assault claim.
She said Biden became annoyed when she resisted his advances during the incident, and told her that he had heard she “liked” him.
“You’re nothing to me,” she said Biden told her. She said he then shook her shoulders, told her she was “OK” and walked away.
Reade said she complained about Biden’s behavior to several senior aides, including his then-chief of staff Ted Kaufman. When Biden’s office took no action, she said she filed a formal complaint to the Senate.
After raising her concerns, Reade said she was stripped of most of her duties. She said she was later told by Kaufman that she wasn’t a good fit for the job and to find a new one.
Kaufman told The New York Times in April that he “did not know” Reade and that she had not complained to him about Biden’s behavior. The Biden campaign told the newspaper it does not have the complaint that Reade said she filed.
Marianne Baker, who served as Biden’s executive assistant from 1982 to 2000, said in a March statement that she “never once” witnessed or received any reports of inappropriate conduct.
The Times confirmed Reade worked in Biden’s office from December 1992 to August 1993. The newspaper said no other person accused Biden of sexual assault during its investigation into Reade’s allegation.
In a podcast interview with supporter Dan Bongino Friday, President Trump expressed sympathy for the former vice president, noting he too has been accused of sexual assault.
“I guess in a way, you could say I’m sticking up for him,” Trump told listeners, in his lengthiest comments yet about the accusation, which Biden addressed directly Friday for the first time, unequivocally denying Reade’s claim.
This familiar territory for the president. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct, including columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her in a New York City department store dressing room in the 1990s. The ongoing claims waged against Trump range from inappropriate comments to sexual assault.
This allegation will continue to be in the news thoughout the presidential election cycle. When one candidate raises the issue, the other will respond and back and forth.