Joe Biden denied Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations this morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, saying the incident "never happened." This is the first time he has addressed the allegations.
Reade, a former aide in Biden’s Senate office, claims that in 1993 Biden pushed her up against the wall of a Senate office building, put his hand up her skirt, and sexually assaulted her with his fingers.
"It is not true. I'm saying unequivocally, it never, ever happened and it didn't," Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said in a one-on-one interview with host Mika Brzezinski.
Reade has said that she filed a complaint with his Senate office back in 1993, which was reportedly related to harassment by Biden but did not mention sexual assault. Biden told Brzezinski he is requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the National Archives, where such complaints would be kept, to identify any record of the complaint and make it available to the press. But he also said he is confident that there is no complaint on record about the alleged incident. "This is an open book. There's nothing for me to hide."
Brzezinski pressed Biden at length about his statements during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's hearings in 2018, when he said that sexual assault accusers should be given the benefit of the doubt. "What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was that she had a right to be heard," he responded. "The fact that she came forward, the presumption would be that she was telling the truth unless she wasn't telling the truth." At the time, Democrats asked for a thorough FBI investigation into the matter.
Brzezinski also asked Biden whether Reade's complaints could be in his senatorial records at the University of Delaware, to which he responded that there are no personnel documents there, and that material in them "could be taken out of context" and become "fodder."
Biden also released a lengthy statement this morning, in which he touted his efforts to prevent violence against women as senator and vice president, including authoring the Violence Against Women Act and his work on the It’s On Us anti-dating violence campaign on college campuses. "Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways," he wrote.
"We’ve lived long enough with a president who doesn’t think he’s accountable to anyone, and takes responsibility for nothing. That’s not me. I believe being accountable means having the difficult conversations, even when they are uncomfortable. People need to hear the truth."
There had been increasing pressure for Biden to address the allegations, particularly since acquaintances of Reade's corroborated the story. The allegations have also put the #MeToo movement in the spotlight, with several prominent feminists publicly grappling with what it means to both believe women and support Biden in the November presidential election against Donald Trump. Some have remarked that the allegations have been turned into a political game in which women are being forced to answer for the alleged actions of men. Others have wondered when we'll get to elect a president who hasn't been accused of sexual assault.
"Over the next few months, we will watch as men on the left and right who have never cared about sexual assault, harassment, or gender equality tar and feather women who are terrified of losing their fundamental human rights — and possibly even their democracy — as hypocrites for supporting Biden," feminist writer Jessica Valenti recently wrote. "At the same time, those of us who dare to question Biden’s feminist bonafides or who believe his accuser will be called Trump enablers."
What we have now is a zero-sum game where absolutely no one wins, in part because most people weighing in at the moment don’t actually care about transforming a culture of sexual violence.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) April 28, 2020
While some have called for Biden to step aside in favor of a different Democratic nominee, the likely choices this November are still Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump — whose reelection will lead to further destruction of our democracy, healthcare system, and courts, and whose actions will continue to adversely affect the lives of women, particularly marginalized women. Trump is currently trailing Biden in several key battleground states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
Trump has been accused of rape or sexual misconduct by over 20 women. On Biden's allegations, he said yesterday, "I think he should respond. It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations."
Virtually all prominent Democrats have recently thrown their support behind Biden. Top Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Stacey Abrams have stood behind him when asked about the accusations, and been criticized for doing so. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton endorsed him in a video town hall earlier this week, where they discussed the impact of coronavirus on women.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the first member of Congress to address the allegations. "I think it's legitimate to talk about these things," she said in an online conversation with members of The Wing. "If we again want to have integrity, you can't say, you know — both believe women, support all of this, until it inconveniences you, until it inconveniences us."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).