Joe Biden responds to sexual assault allegations: “This never happened”

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Joe Biden flatly denied a former Senate aide’s allegation of sexual assault on Friday, saying “this never happened.” It was the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s first public comment on the accusation by Tara Reade.

Reade said on a podcast that in 1993, Biden penetrated her with his hand while in the U.S. Capitol complex, when she was a staff assistant in his Senate office. The allegation in late March expanded on her previous claims that Biden had harassed her.

In a television interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Biden was asked directly whether he had sexually assaulted Reade in 1993.

“No, it is not true,” he said. “I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened.”

In his first statement in response to the allegation, Biden said that while women who make accusations like this “deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard,” their stories “should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.”

Biden went on in his written statement to question her claim, noting that she said she had “raised some of these issues with her supervisor and senior staffers,” but the two people identified said “unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues.”

He told MSNBC that he doesn’t remember “any type of complaint” Reade may have made. “It was 27 years ago,” he said.

Reade, who said that she does not have a copy of her complaint, has called on Biden to release Senate records held at the University of Delaware. Since CBS News inquired about the records in 2018, the university has declined to release any of the records, which are sealed. The library, upon receipt of his Senate papers in 2012, said, “The papers are expected to be available to the public two years after Biden’s last day in elected public office.”

Biden said in his statement that the records at the university library “do not contain personnel files.” What he sent to the university includes material documenting “speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills,” he said in his statement.

Biden also in the interview on Friday said he is “prepared” to release any and all possible complaint records pertaining to others, as well. “I am prepared to do that. To the best of my knowledge there have been no complaints against me in terms of my Senate career, in terms of my office,” Biden said.

He offered that the National Archives might have a record of the complaint, from the Office of Fair Employment Practices, and he said he is asking the secretary of the Senate to look for a record of the complaint and make it available.

“If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there,” his statement said.

Biden’s campaign has said Reade’s allegation is “untrue” and “absolutely did not happen,” although the presumptive Democratic nominee himself had not directly addressed the accusation before Friday.

In 2019, several other women accused Biden of inappropriate touching that was overly affectionate or too familiar. Reade is the only individual who has come forward to accuse him of sexual assault. She told CBS News she was publicizing this latest allegation because she was offered the chance to do so on the podcast, not because of the Democratic presidential primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, which was competitive when Reade made this accusation. Reade publicly supported Sanders.

Her original accusations against Biden did not include sexual assault. A year ago, in April 2019, she told the California newspaper The Union that “he used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck. I would just kind of freeze and wait for him to stop doing that.” She also claimed that her responsibilities in his Senate office were reduced after she refused to serve drinks at an event. Reade said Biden had made the request of her because he liked her legs.

Some new corroboration has emerged over the last week that Reade first alleged the assault in the 1990s. This week, a former neighbor of Reade’s in the ’90s, Lynda LaCasse, told CBS News she remembers Reade telling her around 1995 or 1996 about an assault by Biden, a detail first reported by Business Insider.

Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, also told CBS News he remembers Reade saying Biden put his hand “under her clothes,” but his account has evolved since he spoke to ABC News in March, when he said he was aware of workplace harassment. He also said in an interview with The Washington Post that in 1993, Reade had told him that Biden had inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders. Several days later, he texted the Post to say that he recalled Reade had told him Biden had put his hand “‘under her clothing.'”

Others have said Reade only spoke positively about her previous work in Biden’s office. Lynn Hummer, who operates a California horse rescue where Reade volunteered for a few years, told CBS News Reade wore her experience in Biden’s office like a “feather in her cap.” Hummer also questioned Reade’s truthfulness.

The New York Times interviewed Reade’s former colleagues. They said they did not remember any complaints from Reade about the kind of behavior by Biden that she describes now.

One of Reade’s former colleagues, Marianne Baker, Biden’s former executive assistant in the 1990s, provided a statement to CBS News through the Biden campaign expressing doubt about Reade’s allegations. She said, “I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone.”

Sarah Barth, Michael Kaplan and Caitlin Huey-Burns contributed to this report.

First published on May 1, 2020 / 8:07 AM

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