Former Vice President Joe Biden emphatically denies the sexual assault allegations made against him by former staffer Tara Reade. But on Thursday night, Biden acknowledged for the first time that the gravity of the accusations could be putting voters in a moral quandary.
“If they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn’t vote for me,” Biden told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. He added: “I wouldn’t vote for me if I believed Tara Reade.”
“They should vote with their heart,” Biden said earlier.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee first addressed the accusations in a lengthy statement on May 1, when he said, “They aren’t true. This never happened.”
Throughout the controversy, Biden has asserted his support for sexual assault survivors while maintaining that this particular woman is not telling the truth.
A woman’s sexual abuse claim “should be taken seriously” and “vetted,” Biden said Thursday, echoing his earlier statements. About Reade’s claim, however, he said, “I promise you, it never happened.”
Reade said earlier this year that Biden shoved her against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers when she was a staffer in his Senate office in 1993, expanding on her previous accusations of sexual harassment. She told several reporters last year that Biden made inappropriate comments about her legs at the time, and she alleged that — after she made complaints about his touch — Biden’s office pushed her out of the job.
Biden has pointed to inconsistencies in what Reade has told reporters and called on the National Archives to release any documents related to her claim. Reade has said she filed a complaint around the time of the alleged incident, but no such document has been found.
Several people — including a former neighbor and a former coworker — have corroborated parts of Reade’s story. Her ex-husband made reference to sexual harassment in Biden’s office in a 1996 court document. Reade’s employment in Biden’s Senate office ― between December 1992 and August 1993 ― has also been confirmed.
Reade said last week that she wishes Biden would drop out of the presidential race but added that she does not expect him to do so.
“You and I were there, Joe Biden. Please step forward and be held accountable,” Reade told former Fox News and NBC anchor Megyn Kelly. She added: “You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”