Joe Biden on Friday 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 ahead of an interview 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.
Biden asked the National Archives to release any documents related to Reade’s claim. The University of Delaware, which holds Biden’s senatorial papers, has said it will not release any of the documents because he continues to be in “public life.” Biden claimed records of any complaint would not be there.
In a combative interview with “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski, Biden repeated his denial, saying, “I don’t know why she’s saying this.”
He also rejected the idea of releasing any records now held by the University of Delaware related to Reade, or even authorizing “a search for Tara Reade’s name in the University of Delaware records,” which Brzezinski suggested.
“Look, Mika, she said she filed a report. She has her employment records still. She said she filed her report with the only office that would have the report, in the United States Senate at the time. If the report was ever filed, it was filed there, period,” he said, and would now be in the National Archives.
At several points, Brzezinski tried to get Biden to square his commitment to believing sexual assault survivors with his denial of Reade’s allegation.
“Are women to be believed unless it pertains to you?” Brzezinski asked.
Look, women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt. If they come forward and say something that they said happened to them, they should start off with the presumption they’re telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts in this case do not exist — they never happened. And there are so many inconsistencies in what has been said in this case. So yes, look at the facts. And I can assure you it did not happen, period, period.
Biden repeatedly suggested Reade was lying, although he asserted that he would not “question her motive” or “question her or attack her.” He added: “I don’t know why she’s saying this. I don’t know why, after 27 years, this gets raised.”
Biden also denied that Reade was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement, asserting that he has never made staffers sign NDAs.
Neither he nor his campaign has reached out to Reade, he said.
Before Friday’s interview, Biden’s presidential campaign vehemently 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 on 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.
Several people have corroborated parts of Reade’s story. Former neighbor Lynda LaCasse was quoted in Business Insider saying that Reade told her in 1995 or 1996 that Biden assaulted her.
“This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” LaCasse told the outlet.
“I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him,” she added. “She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn’t feel there was anything she could do.”
Another woman told the Insider that Reade had confided about being the victim of sexual misconduct in the mid-1990s.
Lorraine Sanchez, who worked alongside Reade in California state Sen. Jack O’Connell’s office from 1994 to 1996, said Reade told her at the time that she’d had a boss in Washington who sexually harassed her. Reade said she was fired after speaking up about the harassment, according to Sanchez.
Sanchez said she does not remember if Reade offered details about the harassment or if she named Biden as the perpetrator.
Reade’s brother told the Insider that he recalled his sister telling him that Biden “had his hand under her clothes at some point.”
Reade said she also told her mother about the alleged assault at the time. She told The Intercept that her mother, who has since died, called into “Larry King Live” on CNN and made reference to the incident, mortifying Reade.
Video surfaced of a 1993 episode of “Larry King Live” that featured a segment titled “Washington: The Cruelest City on Earth?” The program included a phone call from a woman, who Reade said was her mother.
“I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington,” the caller said. “My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.