Biden on Sex Assault Allegation: ‘This Never Happened’
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday publicly denied allegations from a former staffer who says the then-senator sexually assaulted her 27 years ago.
“They aren’t true,” Biden said in a statement emailed to reporters and also published on the website Medium. “This never happened.”
Biden’s comments mark the first time he has addressed the allegation of Tara Reade, a former aide in his Senate office, who has said he sexually assaulted her in 1993, when he was a senator from Delaware.
Biden’s campaign had previously said her account is false, but Biden himself had not addressed the issue nor faced questioning on the subject.
He was questioned about the matter on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Friday, shortly after the release of his statement.
In his email, Biden said, “While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated.
“One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny,” he said.
Biden then urged “responsible news organizations” to examine and evaluate “the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways.”
“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 women — have said, unequivocally, that she never came to them to complain or raise issues,” Biden said. “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.”
Reade has said she filed a complaint against Biden in 1993, immediately after the incident is alleged to have occurred, but that she does not have a record of it.
As pressure has grown on Biden in recent days to address the issue, Republicans and Democrats alike called for Biden to release his Senate papers, which are held at the University of Delaware.
But he said those papers contain only speeches, policy proposals, and materials related to positions taken and the writing of bills.
“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be — the National Archives,” Biden said.
“The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”
Asked about the allegations against Biden on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “I want to remove all doubt in anyone’s mind: I have a great comfort level with the situation as I see it, with all due respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden.”
“There is a lot of excitement around the idea that women will be heard and be listened to,” she said. “There is also due process, and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden.”
A number of other women, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California, both touted as potential running mates for Biden, have voiced their support for him, noting, among other things, his role in passing the Violence Against Women Act three decades ago.
In the meantime, Republicans have been working hard to make the allegations a campaign issue not only in the presidential race, but also further down the ticket, waging an email campaign painting supporters of Biden as being somehow anti-women.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump weighed in, saying he believed Biden should respond to the allegations.
“After all,” he said. “It could be false accusations.”
Biden said Friday that as a presidential candidate, “I’m accountable to the American people.
“We have lived long enough with a president who doesn’t think he is 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.”