Democrats in the Senate have rejected the idea that a former aide’s allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden is comparable to the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, has firmly denied Tara Reade’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her when he was a senator in 1993.
“From the very beginning, I’ve said believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously when she steps forward, and then vet it,” Biden said on MSNBC last week when asked about comments he made in 2018 to PBS that “women should be believed.”
He added: “In this case, the truth is the claims are false.”
Biden requested that both the National Archives and the secretary of the Senate look into whether Reade filed any sort of complaint, as she has claimed she did. The Archives said it does not hold such records. The Senate said it lacked the legal authority to release such information.
Senate Democrats ― including some who were on the front lines in the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018 ― defended Biden this week even as they maintained that Reade should be heard.
“These allegations should be taken seriously. He has welcomed scrutiny,” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a vocal ally of the Me Too movement, said of Biden.
Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that weighed Kavanaugh’s nomination, said it was more appropriate to compare the allegations against Biden to the many accusations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump.
“The apt comparison is Trump. Twenty different allegations made against him,” Hirono said.
“It was really clear Republicans wanted to fast-track Kavanaugh; they didn’t have witnesses, they truncated the investigation so that we couldn’t get the facts.”
Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, had four sworn affidavits from people she’d told she’d been assaulted, as well as therapist’s notes and the results of a polygraph test.
“In this situation, Biden has said to bring out the facts,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “There’s a dispute as to what happened. He’s said if there’s any evidence, let the public decide. That’s a lot different approach than we saw with Justice Kavanaugh.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been discussed as a possible vice presidential candidate, didn’t defend Biden directly, saying she believed “that women should be heard and evaluated without any kind of judgment before there has been a real pursuit of the truth and the facts.”
“I encourage that in this case as I do in other cases,” she added before entering a Senate elevator.
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) a longtime friend of Biden and a former federal prosecutor, said he found Reade’s credibility lacking.
“The more that comes out, the more and more it, to me, does not have the indicia of credibility that I would be looking to at all,” Jones said, calling Reade’s account “totally inconsistent” with Biden’s character.
Reade said Biden 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. She said she filed a complaint with a personnel office on Capitol Hill while she was working in Biden’s Senate office. The complaint, she said, alleged harassment but not assault.
In an interview with last week, Reade said that she did not use the phrase “sexual harassment” in the complaint.
“The main word I used — and I know I didn’t use sexual harassment — I used ‘uncomfortable.’ And I remember ‘retaliation,’” she told The Associated Press.
She did not publicize her allegations of sexual assault against Biden until this year, around the time he became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. No one who worked in Biden’s office at the same time as Reade corroborated the allegation, but several other people said she’d mentioned it in the past, including a former neighbor.
Prominent Democrats have stuck by Biden, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and his onetime rivals for the nomination, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). But others, like Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a sexual assault survivor, have urged Biden to engage more fully in the dialogue surrounding sexual violence.
Republicans, meanwhile, say the Democratic Party is guilty of holding Biden to a different standard than Kavanaugh.
“I think that the hypocrisy among many of my friends on this issue is breathtaking,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told HuffPost. “To try and distinguish Vice President Biden from Justice Kavanaugh is a distinction without a difference.”
Members of Trump’s reelection campaign have also emphasized the hypocrisy they see in Biden’s words about believing women who come forward with allegations of sexual assault — without acknowledging the president’s own record on the matter.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.