Joe Biden denies Tara Reade sexual assault allegations: "This never happened"

"Women have the right to be heard . . . In the end, the truth is what matters," Biden says

By Igor Derysh

Deputy Politics Editor

Published May 1, 2020 9:24AM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks on stage during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Getty/Stephen Maturen)
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks on stage during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Getty/Stephen Maturen)

Former Vice President Joe Biden publicly denied allegations that he sexually assaulted former Senate aide Tara Reade, saying they "never happened" in his first televised interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"No, it is not true," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told co-host Mika Brzezinski. "I am saying unequivocally it never ever happened — and it didn't."

"I don't remember any type of complaint she might have made," Biden added. "It was 27 years ago, and I don't remember. Nor does anyone else that I'm aware of."

Biden said he has not reached out to Reade personally about the allegations, which have roiled his campaign for the White House. 

"It was 27 years ago," he said. "This never happened . . . It's as simple as that."

Prior to the interview, Biden called for the National Archives to identify "any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document" in a Medium post.

"Are you confident there is nothing?" Brzezinski asked.

"I'm confident there is nothing. No one ever brought it to the attention of me," he said. "No one is aware of any such complaint. I'm not worried about it at all. If there was a complaint, that's where it would be . . . No one has it, as far as I'm aware."

Brzezinski noted that Biden said that "women should be believed" during the Senate confirmation hearings of Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

"From the very beginning, I said 'believing women' meant taking the woman's claim seriously when she came forward and then vetting it," he said. "That's true in this case, as well. Women have the right to be heard . . . In the end, the truth is what matters. And in this case, the claims are false."

Biden denied that there was an inconsistency between his stance on the allegations against Kavanaugh and those against him.

"I'm not suggesting she had no right to come forward," he said. "It should be investigated . . . If the case is made, then it should be believed. But only the truth matters. I fought my whole life to change the culture around sexual assault."

Biden also denied that he ever had a woman sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Brzezinski cited a report that access to Biden's Senate records was changed in Business Insider. "Why not strive for complete transparency?" she asked.

"The [University of Delaware] said it's going to take them time to go through all the boxes," he replied. "But look, a record like this can only be in one place. My archives do not contain personnel files . . . If that document existed, they would exist in the National Archives."

Brzezinski repeatedly pressed Biden on the records.

"First of all, let's get this straight: There are no personnel documents. You can't do that," Biden insisted. "They're private documents. They don't get put out in the public. They're not part of the public record . . . There was one place she could file a complaint, and all the records from that office are in the archives and they are controlled by the Senate."

Biden later said the documents could be "taken out of context," because they included "confidential" documents. But he added that there are no "personnel records."

"Why do you think she's doing this?" Brzezinski asked.

"I'm not going to question her motive . . . I don't know why she's saying this," Biden said. "I don't understand . . . I'm not going to attack her."

"This never ever happened," Biden reiterated at the end of the interview. "I don't know what is motivating her, I don't know what's behind it even but it's irrelevant . . . I'm not going to get into her motive."

Biden responded to the allegations amid mounting criticism for not publicly addressing them. His campaign sent out talking points urging supporters to deny the allegations, citing a New York Times report. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, long rumored to be on the shortlist to become Biden's running mate, cited the article in an interview on CNN earlier this week. The New York Times rejected claims that its report determined the assault "did not happen."

Reade, who briefly worked for Biden when he was a senator, first came forward among several other women who accused Biden of inappropriate touching or kissing last year. She told a local Nevada County newspaper that Biden "would touch me on the shoulder or hold his hand on my shoulder running his index finger up my neck during a meeting." She did not mention the alleged assault at that time.

She alleged in a podcast interview earlier this year that Biden pushed her up against the wall and digitally penetrated her during an encounter in 1993, Salon's Amanda Marcotte reported. Reade later reiterated her allegations to The Times, Washington Post, and other outlets.

"Aw man, I heard you liked me," she claimed Biden told her after she resisted. She said the former senator then told her "you're nothing to me" before shaking her by the shoulders and adding, "You're OK. You're fine."

Reade said she had previously complained about the way Biden looked at her and touched her before the alleged assault but did not receive a response. She said she was abruptly removed from her job managing office interns following her complaints. She claimed that she later filed a complaint to the Senate about her treatment but did not mention the alleged assault.

Reade's brother and two friends told The Times that she told them about the allegations shortly after the alleged assault. Reade later told The Intercept that her mother called then-CNN host Larry King to seek advice about the allegation in 1993.

The Biden campaign has repeatedly denied the allegations.

"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," Kate Bedingfield, Biden's communication director, said in a statement. "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."

Several former Biden Senate aides told The Times that they could not recall Reade ever making the allegation at the time.

"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," Marianne Baker, who was Biden's executive assistant for nearly two decades, said.

Melissa Lefko, a former staff assistant in Biden's office, told Business Insider that "had there been anything, I would have heard about it."

Some Biden supporters have also raised questions about Reade's support for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and her writings about Russia.

"Over the past few months, Reade began heavily retweeting pro-Sanders accounts and regularly engaging with prominent Sanders supporters. It was during this time that Reade started to hint publicly that what happened with Biden had been far more serious than her 2019 story detailed," Salon's Amanda Marcotte reported last month. "Biden supporters and journalists like Edward Isaac-Dovere of the Atlantic attempted to discredit Reade by noting that she had written essays expressing her affection for Vladimir Putin . . . In [a] 2018 post at Medium, she wrote, "President Putin scares the power elite in America because he is a compassionate, caring, visionary leader."

Reade claimed that she was writing a novel about Russia at the time and denied that her allegations had anything to do with her political leanings. Her allegations gained traction when a former neighbor, who supports Biden, and a former colleague went on record to Business Insider to corroborate elements of her claims. 

"I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for — and she idolized him. 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. She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn't feel there was anything she could do," Lynda LaCasse, who lived next door to Reade in the mid-90s, told the outlet. "She was crying. She was upset, and the more she talked about it, the more she started crying. I remember saying that she needed to file a police report."

Some Biden supporters, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the allegations deserved to be investigated. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she was satisfied with the media's "investigations" of the allegations and vowed to "stand by Vice President Biden."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she was "satisfied" with Biden's response Thursday, the day before the former vice president addressed the claims on camera.

"I have great sympathy for any women who bring forth an allegation, and I'm a big strong supporter of the #MeToo movement," she said. "I think it's made a great contribution to our country, and I do support Joe Biden. I'm satisfied with how he has responded. I know him. I was proud to endorse him on Monday — very proud to endorse him — and so I'm satisfied with that."

Pelosi said she was "impressed" that people who worked for Biden at the time said they "absolutely never heard one iota of information about this."

"Nobody ever brought forth a claim or had anybody else tell them about such a claim," she added. "But again, we have an important election at hand."

You can watch the interview below via MSNBC:

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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