Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a sexual assault allegation for the first time publicly today during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
A former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, claims Biden assaulted her in a Senate building on Capitol Hill in 1993. Reade says then-Senator Biden pinned her against a wall, touched her underneath her clothes and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. Reade says when she pulled away, Biden said to her, “You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.” Reade first discussed her story during an interview with podcast host Katie Halper in late March.
The Biden campaign has called Reade’s accusation “untrue” and insists it “absolutely did not happen.” But Biden himself remained silent on the issue for several weeks, despite mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to address Reade’s claims directly. The full interview is embedded below.
Here’s what you need to know:
Biden Said He Would Never Criticize Tara Reade But Insisted Her Claims Were Not True
On Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski began the interview by asking Biden directly whether Tara Reade’s allegations were true. Biden responded, “No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.”
Biden agreed that all women have the right to be heard and believed. He added that any accusations should be thoroughly vetted and investigated. But he repeated his assertion that in this case, Reade’s claim against him is not true.
The former Vice President said at least twice that he would never attack Reade or question her motives for coming forward. “I don’t know why she’s saying this. I don’t know why after 27 years all of a sudden this gets raised. I don’t understand it.” Biden added the motives were “irrelevant” because “it never happened. It never happened, period.”
Biden Called For the National Archives to Release Records Related to Tara Reade’s Claim If They Exist
Reade has said she filed a formal complaint against Biden in 1993. No document has been found and Reade has said she did not have a copy of it. On Morning Joe, Biden said he has called for the National Archives to release any such record if it exists. But he added he is confident it does not exist. “If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there… This is an open book, there’s nothing for me to hide. Nothing at all.”
Biden has also faced calls to release records on file with the University of Delaware. Thousands of boxes containing “photographs, documents, videotapes, and files” and “415 gigabytes of electronic records” related to Biden’s career in public service were stored at the university in 2012, according to Fox News.
Those records were to be kept sealed until after Biden leaves public life. Biden says they did not contain personnel information. Brzezinski repeatedly asked Biden whether he would allow the university to search for Reade’s name in the system. He responded again that the records did not include information on personnel.
Shortly before the MSNBC interview began, Biden released a statement on Medium about the accusations and his desire to prove the incident did not happen. On the issue of whether Reade filed a formal complaint, Biden wrote:
There is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified. 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.
Before May 1, the Biden Campaign’s Only Comment On Tara Reade’s Claims Was a Brief Statement Asserting the Accusation Was Untrue But That Women Have a Right to Be Heard
Biden had faced mounting pressure from both supporters and critics to address the sexual assault allegation personally. Before May 1, the only comment from the campaign was a statement attributed to deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield:
Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. 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.