Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday said former staffer Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault “never happened.”
Reade, who was an aide to Biden when he was a U.S. senator, has accused the former vice president of sexually assaulting her in 1993. Reade worked for Biden from 1992 to 1993 and has said he kissed, groped and digitally penetrated her during an unwanted sexual advance.
Biden’s campaign has denied Reade’s allegation, but Friday was the first time Biden has addressed the issue himself since Reade went public with the details more than a month ago.
“So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened,” Biden said in a statement issued Friday by his campaign on Medium.
The former vice president then made similar comments during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“No, it is not true,” Biden told host Mika Brzezinski when asked about Reade’s allegations. “I am saying unequivocally. It never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.”
When asked if he remembered Reade or whether she had made any complaint, Biden said, “I don’t remember any type of complaint she may have made. It was 27 years ago, and I don’t remember nor does anyone else that I’m aware of. And that fact is that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any complaint ever having been made.”
Biden was asked if he or the campaign had reached out to Reade.
“No,” he said. “I have not reached out to her. It was 27 years ago. This never happened.”
In his post on Medium, Biden said it was important that Reade’s story be scrutinized by what he called “responsible news organizations.”
“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.
“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,” Biden said.
The former vice president said in the post that no one in his office has corroborated Reade’s story.
“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,” he said.
Biden then said that if there is a complaint, as Reade has said there is, it should be produced.
“There is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified,” he said. “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.
“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be — the National Archives. 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.”
During his MSNBC interview, Biden was asked about that call to search the National Archives for a complaint.
“I’m confident there’s nothing,” he said. “No one ever brought it to the attention of me 27 years ago. This is any assertion at all. No one that I’m aware of in my campaign — my Senate office at the time — is aware of any such a request or any such complaint, and so I’m not worried about it at all.
“If there is a complaint, that’s where it would be. That’s where it would be filed. And if it’s there, put it out. But I’ve never seen it. No one has, that I’m aware of.”
When asked about doing a search for Reade’s name, Biden blinked repeatedly and stammered, “Who does that search?”
In the former vice president’s Medium post, he praised himself for his work on behalf of women.
“I have spent my career learning from women the ways in which we as individuals and as policymakers need to step up to make their hard jobs easier, with equal pay, equal opportunity, and workplaces and homes free from violence and harassment,” he said. “I know how critical women’s health issues and basic women’s rights are. That has been a constant through my career, and as President, that work will continue. And I will continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard.”
Biden then noted that certain pockets of women deserve protection.
“We need to protect and empower the most marginalized communities, including immigrant and indigenous women, trans women, and women of color,” he said.
In his statement, Biden framed himself as a pioneer in addressing violence against women, claiming authorship of the Violence Against Women Act.
“When I wrote the bill, few wanted to talk about the issue,” he said. “It was considered a private matter, a personal matter, a family matter. I didn’t see it that way. To me, freedom from fear, harm, and violence for women was a legal right, a civil right, and a human right. And I knew we had to change not only the law, but the culture. So, we held hours of hearings and heard from the most incredibly brave women – and we opened the eyes of the Senate and the nation – and passed the law.
“In the years that followed, I fought to continually strengthen the law. So, when we took office and President Obama asked me what I wanted, I told him I wanted oversight of the critical appointments in the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice and I wanted a senior White House Advisor appointing directly to me on the issue. Both of those things happened.
“I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished.”
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