Tara Reade, a former staffer for former Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the U.S. Senate, has accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993.
The controversy surrounding Reade’s accusations has built slowly, eventually migrating from a podcast to the pages of major newspapers. Now Biden, facing growing pressure to address the claims, is speaking directly for the first time about them. On MSNBC, Biden said that he was “saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. It didn’t. It never happened.”
On Twitter, Reade defines herself as, “Former intern for Leon Panetta, Frmer Senate aide for Biden, Survivor, Domestic Violence Advocate, Animal Rights, Actress, Writer. Poet.” Her full name is Alexandra Tara Reade.
Biden, in a May 1 statement, denied sexually assaulting Reade. “This never happened,” 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.”
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.
In an earlier statement to Fox News, Biden’s campaign previously declared Reade’s sexual assault accusation false. “Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims. We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false,” Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to Fox News.
Reade wrote on Twitter: “I am not an ‘imperfect victim.’ I was lifelong Democratic supporter single mom that put myself through law school and I was raped by Joe Biden, my former boss, a Democrat. There are no excuses for institutionalized rape culture. Thank you.”
The major piece of evidence that Reade claims exists: She says she filed a written complaint with the Senate in 1993 about Biden’s behavior but doesn’t have a copy. However, she later told ABC News that it doesn’t contain the sexual assault accusation but rather alleges she felt uncomfortable at work.
Biden’s records are being housed at the University of Delaware, and, so far, neither he nor the university will release them. According to Fox News, Biden gave the university “1,875 boxes of “photographs, documents, videotapes, and files” and “415 gigabytes of electronic records” in 2012. They were originally supposed to be released two years after Biden’s last day in public office but now aren’t being released until after he leaves public life. Multiple members of the university Board of Trustees are Biden donors, Fox reported.
Biden told MSNBC that there aren’t personnel files in those documents but he said they would be 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,” Biden said on the May 1 program, adding, when asked if he would release any past complaints against him, “I’m prepared to do that.” But he said he wouldn’t be unsealing the documents at the university so they don’t become “fodder” for the campaign.
What’s the other evidence, though? Here’s the evidence for – and against – Reade’s accusations against Biden.
Evidence Arguably Backing Up Reade’s Accusation
A 1996 Court Document
According to Politico, a 1996 court document shows “Reade’s ex-husband referred to a sexual harassment problem but did not mention assault or provide details about who was involved.”
“On several occasions Petitioner related a problem that she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office,” her ex husband Ted Dronen said in the 1996 court records. “Petitioner told me that she eventually struck a deal with the chief of staff of the Senator’s office and left her position.”
Reade Did Actually Work for Biden
It’s been proven that Reade was working for Biden’s Senate office in a low-level capacity at the time of the alleged assault.
A 2019 story in the Union newspaper in California reported that “employment documents provided by Reade confirm that she worked in Biden’s office from December 1992 to August 1993.” The New York Times confirmed that Reade “briefly worked as a staff assistant in Mr. Biden’s Senate office.”
Reade directed this tweet at New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, including a copy of her employment record:
According to the Times, she worked for Biden from December 1992 through August 1993.
In an April 2019 column in the Union newspaper, Reade wrote:
I had been approached in college by a political science professor to apply for an internship in a congressional office. After working as an intern in Washington D.C., I caught the political operative bug and worked on campaigns. I applied at then Sen. Joseph Biden’s office and I was interviewed on the phone, flew back to D.C., and hired at the in-person interview, on the spot. Sen. Biden walked past as I was being interviewed and prepared for orientation, he asked me a question then as he breezed out, said, ‘Hire her,’ with a smile.
Reade Did Leave Biden’s Employ Suddenly
Reade claims she was forced out of Biden’s office after she complained to staffers and filed the alleged written complaint.
According to The New York Times, two interns told the newspaper that Reade “abruptly stopped supervising them in April, before the end of their internship,” but they didn’t recall her saying anything about inappropriate conduct by Biden.
Multiple People Say Reade Told Them She Had Issues With Biden Years Ago, Although Some Claim She Mentioned Sexual Harassment, Not Assault
Absent an eyewitness, journalists look for other corroboration: Did Reade tell other people about the alleged attack years ago, especially before Biden’s presidential campaign? Such people have come forward. However (and this goes in the arguably against category), some described sexual harassment, not assault.
However, that’s not true of all. Reade’s former neighbor Lynda Lacasse told Business Insider that Reade told her about the alleged Joe Biden sexual assault in the mid 1990s. The neighbor is a Joe Biden supporter. “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” the former neighbor said.
Lorraine Sanchez, a former co-worker of Reade’s, also told Business Insider that Reade talked about being fired after complaining about sexual harassment relating to a former boss in Washington D.C.
Reade claimed to the AP that she told four people about the accusations at the time; two friends, her brother, and her now deceased mother. AP talked to the two friends, and both friends verified that Reade had spoken to them years ago. One said it was about sexual harassment not assault. They were not named.
Reade’s friends have spoken to multiple news outlets.
Associated Press reporter Alexandra Jaffe wrote on Twitter, “One friend, who knew Tara Reade in 1993, said in an interview Sunday that Reade told them about the alleged assault when it happened. The person advised Reade against going forward with the rest of her story out of concern for Reade’s safety.”
Podcaster Katie Halper has also spoken to a friend of Reade who wanted to remain anonymous but who alleges Reade told her about the accusation in the past. You can listen to that interview here.
The New York Times reported that a friend confirmed Reade “told her the details of the allegation at the time,” and that Reade’s brother and a second friend “said she told them over the years about a traumatic sexual incident involving Mr. Biden.”
The Washington Post also spoke to Reade’s brother. He told the Post she told him Biden was “inappropriate,” and then later told the Post that Reade told him that Biden put his hands under her clothes.
Reade’s Mother Called Into the Larry King Show to Mention Her Daughter’s Problems With a Prominent Senator
It’s emerged that Jeanette Altimus, Reade’s mother, called into the Larry King show on CNN and discussed her daughter’s “problems” with a prominent Senator years ago, according to a report in The Intercept. Reade confirmed on Twitter that the caller was her mother.
In an April 24, 2020 report, the Intercept reported that the new piece of evidence – the video – had “emerged buttressing the credibility of Tara Reade’s claim that she told her mother about allegations of sexual harassment and assault” relating to then U.S. Senator Biden. Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, died in 2016. Reade has confirmed her mother’s voice is on the video.
In the video, the caller, who doesn’t give her name, is identified as being from San Luis Obispo, California. “I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington,” she says. “My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all. The only thing she could have done was go to the press and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.”
Reade’s Accusations Against Biden Are Very Detailed
In this case, Reade is not a woman struggling to remember details or time frame or location.
Podcast host Katie Halper, who is considered a progressive politically, posted an interview with Reade on Soundcloud.
During the interview, Reade alleged that a supervisor called her into the office and said, “I want you to take this to Joe, he wants it. We want you to bring it, hurry. It was a gym bag. She called it an athletic bag. She said he was down towards the Capitol, and he’ll meet you. I went down, and I was heading down towards there. He was at first talking to someone.. and then they went away. We were in like the side, like the side area, and he just said, ‘Hey, come here Tara.'”
I handed him the thing. He greeted me. He remembered my name. And then we were alone. It was the strangest thing. There was no like exchange really. He just had me up against the wall. I was wearing like a skirt, a business skirt. I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day that day, and I was wearing heels…I remember I was wearing a blouse, and he just had me up against the wall. And the wall was cold. It happened all at once…his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. Yeah, and he went down my skirt but then up inside it, and he penetrated me with his fingers, and he was kissing me at the same time, and he was saying something to me. He said several things. I can’t remember everything he said.
I remember a couple of things. I remember him saying, first as he was doing it, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else,’ and then him saying to me when I pulled away. He got finished doing what he was doing, and I pulled back and he said, ‘C’mon man, I heard you liked me,’ and it’s that phrase stayed with me. I kept thinking what I might have said…I can’t remember if he said I thought or heard. He implied that I had done this. For me, it was like everything shattered in that moment because I knew we were alone, it was over, right, he wasn’t trying to do anything more, but I looked up to him. He was my father’s age. He was this champion of women’s rights in my eyes. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It seemed surreal. I felt sick because when he pulled back he looked annoyed, and he said something else to me that I don’t want to say. And then he said, I must have looked shocked. He grabbed me by the shoulders… and he said, ‘You’re OK, you’re fine.’ And then he walked away.
Halper pressed Reade on the thing she didn’t want to reveal. She then revealed that Biden allegedly said, “You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.”
“I remember the assault itself, and then the aftermath, and the reverberating effects of that,” Reade said in another interview on the alleged incident on Rising with Krystal and Saagar on Hill TV. She has since repeated the allegations to other news outlets.
Evidence Arguably Against Reade’s Accusation
Reade’s Story Has Changed
Tara Reade’s initial story about Biden was very different.
According to Law and Crime, Reade was one of eight women who “previously accused Biden of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching in early 2019.” Former Nevada State senator Lucy Flores had come forward with her own allegations first. The New York Times reported that Flores alleged that Biden touched her inappropriately and kissed her “on the head during a Democratic campaign rally in 2014, when he was vice president.”
The Times says Reade then claimed that Biden “publicly stroked her neck, wrapped his fingers in her hair and touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable.”
At that time, though, Reade did not allege that Biden sexually assaulted her. According to Law and Crime, her allegations then were that she was “objectified, inappropriately touched by Biden, and later retaliated against after complaining.” She has said she was afraid to come forward with the rest.
“I worked for the United States Senate as an aide for Joe Biden. I spoke up about his inappropriateness in 93 and last April. Part of my story, the rest is silenced, ask me,” Reade wrote on her Twitter page in March 2019. The tweet links to a Medium article she wrote, which is headlined, “POWERFUL MEN AND THE WOMEN THEY CHOOSE TO DESTROY.”
The Union, a Nevada County, California newspaper, wrote about Reade’s earlier allegations in April 2019. That article alleges that Reade claimed then that Biden “touched her several times making her feel uncomfortable. Reade said her responsibilities in the senator’s office were reduced after she refused to serve drinks at an event — what she called a desire of Biden’s because he liked her legs.”
That article does not describe the alleged sexual assault Reade is now describing; it quotes her as saying, “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.”
That story also says that a friend told The Union that Reade had described the story at the time.
In a Medium article, Reade said that coming out publicly about the Biden allegations after Flores’ claims caused her a lot of harm. “Last year, my reputation was smeared again by Joe Biden’s campaign cronies on twitter and social media when the story came out on the AP wire about what he did. I lost clients in my freelance work after a reporter called me a Russian agent online. I received phone call and email threats, my website hacked. Mainstream press has still not really covered my story. I am again, still silenced,” she wrote.
On March 24, 2020, The Intercept posted a lengthy article alleging that, after Reade came forward in support of Lucy Flores, she reached out to Time’s Up, the organization created in the wake of the #metoo movement.
Intercept reported that Time’s Up said it couldn’t help Reade because Biden was a candidate for federal office and the group was worried about its non-profit status.
Reade Supports a Former Biden Presidential Campaign Rival, Bernie Sanders
Although it doesn’t mean the alleged assault didn’t happen, Reade, a Democrat, has publicly supported a campaign rival of Biden’s. Some might say that gives her a motive to lie. On the other hand, she is a long-time Democrat, so she is not a supporter of President Trump or the opposing political party of the former Vice President.
On MSNBC, Biden stressed that he wasn’t questioning Reade’s motives, saying, “I’m not going to question her motive. 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.”
Reade has made no secret of the fact she is a Bernie Sanders supporter. The Intercept has reported that Reade “first supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren and then Sen. Bernie Sanders.” She has urged people to vote for Sanders on her Twitter page.
She has also made it clear that she disagrees with Biden on policy questions. Reade has now filed a criminal complaint with authorities, according to Business Insider. The Associated Press says that complaint alleges she “was the victim of a sexual assault by an unnamed person in 1993.” However, it’s past the statute of limitations, so the case is inactive.
More recently, Reade has posted pro Bernie Sanders commentary on Twitter.
In March, she directed a tweet to then presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, writing, “I am his former Senate aide. When I filed a complaint against Joe Biden for sexual harassment and more I was fired in 93. Last April I spoke up and his campaign worker and former aide…called me a Russian agent. I am not. I also volunteered same year for RFK memorial.”
Reade has criticized Biden on Twitter, writing, “Beware the Ides of March. Pay attention my friends this is your vote. Do you really think that Biden will tell the truth even one time to back a progressive agenda? 61 billionaires backing his campaign, I think not.”
In a tweet in March 2019, she wrote, “I do not have a TV I get my news from @davidsirota tweets or bernie supporters or my daughter in Seattle. She told me as of Friday a travel ban from Europe into U.S. & all the public Seattle schools closing for 2 months yikes. #NotMeUs #Bernie2020 #BernieSanders.”
Reade told The New York Times she was a “third-generation Democrat.” According to Intercept, Reade faced criticism over comments she made about Vladimir Putin in a Medium article that has since been deleted.
Intercept quoted that article as saying, “What if I told you that everything you learned about Russia was wrong? President Putin scares the power elite in America because he is a compassionate, caring, visionary leader. … To President Putin, I say keep your eyes to the beautiful future and maybe, just maybe America will come to see Russia as I do, with eyes of love. To all my Russian friends, happy holiday and Happy New Year.”
She told Intercept’s Ryan Grim that she wrote the post “in the spirit of world peace and solidarity with” a friend who was from Russia. That article also says that “Reade’s leftist mother had raised her to oppose American imperialism and be skeptical of American exceptionalism.”
Federal Election Commission campaign finance records turn up only a $5 donation earmarked for once Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson.
In that record, Reade describes herself as a freelance writer who lives in Grass Valley, California.
Reade Previously Praised Biden – for His Work on Sexual Assault
Evidence has emerged that Reade, in recent years, praised Biden’s record on sexual assault. Some say that’s inconsistent with her story.
Brian and Eddie Krassenstein tried to cast doubt on Reade’s accusations in a lengthy Medium post. You can read it here. They say she worked as a domestic violence victim advocate for a prosecutor, as co-host of a soul music radio show, and as founder of a Pet Food Pantry. They also claim that Reade “praised Joe Biden for his action in helping stop sexual assault, not just once, but on multiple occasions,” as recently as 2017. The Krassensteins are controversial; Vanity Fair reported that Twitter banned them, calling them “anti-Trump.” The article calls them “progressive political activists famous for trolling Donald Trump and his supporters.”
However, the New York Times has reported similar information. In 2017, confirmed The Times, Reade “retweeted praise for Mr. Biden and his work combating sexual assault.”
Biden’s Office Staff Claimed They Don’t Remember Any Complaint by Tara Reade Against Joe Biden
Biden emphasized this angle in his statement on May 1, saying,
But this much bears emphasizing. 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.
The Associated Press reported that Reade alleges she raised “accusations of sexual harassment, but not assault, against Biden in multiple meetings with her supervisors, including Marianne Baker, Biden’s executive assistant; Dennis Toner, Biden’s deputy chief of staff; and Ted Kaufman, the senator’s chief of staff.” Biden’s campaign gave AP a statement from Baker stating, “I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone.”
AP reported that Toner and Kaufman said they couldn’t recall Reade and said her accusations were out of character for Biden. The AP reported that it “spoke to five current or former Biden staffers on Sunday, all of whom worked for him at the time of the alleged incident. None recalled such an incident or a report.”
In addition, Reade never went to the police at the time.