When asked Friday what he would say to Tara Reade, who has accused him of sexual assault, Joe Biden looked into the camera and said, “This never, ever happened.”
Biden, who was on Morning Joe to address the allegations for the first time, spoke for more than 20 minutes about the allegations in a wide-ranging interview.
“This, never, ever happened,” Biden said. “I don’t know what is motivating her. … But it’s irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened. Period. “
In his first statement since Reade alleged he assaulted her when she was a Senate staffer in 1993, Biden also called on the National Archives to release “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.”
In the lengthy statement released before his MSNBC appearance, Biden said “responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both big and small ways.”
During remarks on MSNBC, Biden said, “I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened.”
When asked by “Morning Joe” co-host Mike Brzezinski if his campaign had reached out to Reade, Biden said, “No, I have not reached out to her, it was 27 years ago. It never happened.”
What Reade says happened in 1993
Reade told the Associated Press that while she was bringing a gym bag to Biden in a Capitol Hill office building in 1993, Biden pushed her against a wall, groped her and digitally penetrated her without consent.
She said she recalled him looking surprised when she pulled away and that he told her, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.”
Multiple people have said they remember her telling them about an assault or harassment and retaliation well before she went public with her story, including a former neighbor who said this week that Reade told her about the assault in 1995 or 1996.
“This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” Lynda LaCasse told Business Insider.
Reade’s claim comes amid the first presidential election since the surge of #MeToo, which has championed the importance of listening to women and holding powerful abusers to account. Biden is among the many Democratic figures who has been a supporter of the movement.
The movement has ensnared former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, media personalities like former “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer and politicians alike. President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault or unwanted advances by more than a dozen women. He has claimed he’s been victim to “false accusations.”
Trump weighed in on the allegation against Biden on Thursday, suggesting that it could be false. His campaign has amplified Reade’s claims numerous times on social media recently.
“I don’t know anything about it, I don’t know exactly. I think he should respond, you know? It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times,” Trump said.
Senate papers housed at university, but Biden says not personnel files
Biden noted that papers from his time in the Senate, such as speeches, policy proposals, position statements and the writing of bills, were donated to the University of Delaware, as “it is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record.” He added that the papers donated do not include personnel files.
Biden reiterated that any complaint would be kept at the National Archives.
“I am not worried about it at all. If there is a complaint, that’s where it should be,” Biden said on MSNBC. “And if it’s there, put it out. But I’ve never seen it.”
In his statement ahead of the TV appearance, Biden said, “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.”
Reade has repeatedly said that the complaint she made does not detail the alleged assault, but mentions that Biden mader her uncomfortable.
The University of Delaware is not releasing documents donated from Biden’s Senate office in 2012, as the school is still “curating the collection” and the process is not expected to end until well into 2021, according to CNN.
A spokeswoman from the University of Delaware told CNN that the school would not release the papers until two years after Biden retires from public life.
The university announced last year that 1,850 boxes of archival records from Biden’s Senate career arrived at their library on June 6, 2012. The records are set to be accessible no sooner than two years after Biden retired from “public office” or no sooner than Dec. 31, 2019, according to the university.
Brzezinski pressed Biden multiple times about his response to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, which came to light during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.
“Why is it real for Dr Ford, but not for Tara Reade?” Brzezinski asked.
“Women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt, as they come forward and say something that is that they said happened to them,” Biden said. “They should start off with a presumption they’re telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts in this case do not exist. They never happened. And there’s so many inconsistencies.”
Reade among women who accused Biden of inappropriate affection
Reade was one of a group of women who came forward a year ago with stories about Biden displaying inappropriate signs of physical affection, but didn’t mention her claim went further until speaking with podcast host Katie Halper in March and in subsequent interviews.
Reade told AP she didn’t bring up her assault allegation a year ago because “already I was being threatened and kind of smeared, and I just I wasn’t ready.” At the time, Biden acknowledged the claims and said publicly he would be more “mindful and respectful” going forward.
‘A person of great integrity’:Prominent Democratic women are standing by Joe Biden amid Tara Reade’s sexual assault claim
After voicing her complaints about sexual harassment, but not assault, to supervisors in Biden’s office in 1993, Reade says she was retaliated against and ultimately told to find another job. She says she reported harassment to a Senate personnel office, but news investigations haven’t found such a record and multiple former Biden employees say they don’t recall conversations about it, The New York Times reported.
Biden’s campaign previously denied the allegation in a statement to media, highlighting his past work against violence toward women and encouraging news organizations to investigate further.
“He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully. 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,” said deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield.
Biden echoed those sentiments Friday.
“From the very beginning I’ve said, believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously,” Biden said on MSNBC, adding that after allegations are made, they must be vetted. “That’s true in this case as well … but in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. In this case, the truth is the claims are false.”
Reade’s motivation and credibility have been under the microscope for several weeks, with detractors pointing to the way her story evolved and her support for former 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, among other things.
A lifelong Democrat, Reade has said her motive for coming forward was not political. She told The Intercept’s Ryan Grim she didn’t speak about it when Biden was in office during the Obama administration because she didn’t want to hurt her then-teenage daughter and she liked former President Barack Obama. She also noted that was before the rise of the #MeToo era that empowered more women to tell their stories.
Several prominent Democratic figures have stood by Biden despite the claims, including some of the women who have been rumored as potential running mates. Reade said the response has been “devastating” and that she is now “politically homeless.”
“I cried for a while because they’re important in my life. They’ve been figures that I looked up to,” she told BuzzFeed News.
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