Joe Biden has finally directly addressed the allegations of sexual harassment and assault made by his former Senate staffer Tara Reade, denying them outright: “This absolutely did not happen,” he said in a statement. A spokesperson for the candidate had initially denied her account when it was made public a few weeks ago.
Reade first publicly accused Biden of inappropriate conduct in 2019, telling a Nevada newspaper that he used to run his fingers along her neck and touch her shoulders at work. In March of this year, she came forward with a second allegation, claiming on a podcast that the presumptive Democratic nominee had shoved her up against a wall in a Senate building and penetrated her with his fingers in 1993. She said she filed a complaint about his behavior — specifically the harassment — with a Senate personnel office, and that no action was taken, but she faced retaliation from Senate staff afterward and was subsequently fired. Three weeks later, when the New York Times reported on Reade’s account, a Biden spokesperson dismissed it as untrue, saying, “This absolutely did not happen.”
Since then, several more news outlets have reported on Reade’s story; in total, four people have come forward to say Reade told them about a traumatic incident at work, at or around the time she says it happened. Most recently, her former neighbor told Business Insider that Reade had told her in detail about the assault in 1995 or 1996, specifically naming Biden. Pressure has been mounting for Biden to address the allegations himself in light of this information, especially as the women who have endorsed him continue to be dispatched with talking points from his presidential campaign, while the candidate himself remained silent.
Per CNN, in Biden’s statement — his first detailed response to the allegation — he again unequivocally denies Reade’s claim. “It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen,” he 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 then called Reade’s story “inconsistent”: “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 said. “But this much bears emphasizing,” he said. “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.” (Three former managers from Biden’s Senate office told the New York Times that they never received, or do not remember receiving, a complaint from Reade. Two former interns she supervised also said that while they don’t remember her discussing any inappropriate conduct by Biden, she did “abruptly stop supervising them” in April 1993.)
In an MSNBC interview, Biden also addressed the records from his Senate days housed at the University of Delaware, currently unavailable to the public. Business Insider reported on April 30 that campaign operatives “rifled through” the documents on “at least one occasion” before mid-March. Reade says she believes records corroborating her account could be in the collection; Biden says his papers at the university do not contain personnel files, and that personnel files from the Senate during those days would be kept at the National Archives. “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,” he said. Asked if he would release all complaints against him, he told MSNBC, “I’m prepared to do that,” and added that to the best of his knowledge there are no claims of sexual misconduct against him in the records. When asked by Mika Brzezinski, who conducted the interview, he repeatedly declined to allow a search of the University of Delaware papers specifically for anything pertaining to Tara Reade.