Former Vice President Joe Biden is facing sexual assault accusations from a California freelance writer and former staffer named Tara Reade, whose allegations have caused growing questions to swirl around the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee. Biden adamantly denies the allegations.
Reade, 56, alleges that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she worked as a staffer for then-Sen. Biden. Biden’s campaign denied the allegations, but, until May 1, Biden had not spoken directly about Reade’s claims. After a neighbor alleged that Reade spoke of the accusations years ago and video surfaced apparently showing Reade’s now-deceased mother calling into the Larry King show to discuss her daughter’s problems, pressure grew on Biden to say something directly. He was poised to do so on the Morning Joe program on May 1. On MSNBC, Biden said that he was “saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. It didn’t. It never happened.”
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.”
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.
Who is Tara Reade? 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. 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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Biden’s Campaign Previously Declared That the Accusations of Reade, a Bernie Sanders Supporter, Were False
When Reade’s allegations first surfaced, Biden’s campaign labeled them 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.
Last spring, before Reade accused him of sexual assault, Biden issued a blanket denial about sexual misconduct with women, saying he believes he has never acted inappropriately with women.
Heavy has reached out to Reade, Reade’s brother, Reade’s former neighbor, the University of Delaware, and Biden’s press office for comment on Reade’s accusations of alleged sexual assault, which she made in a podcast in March 2020.
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.
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.”
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 the 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.
Brian and Eddie Krassenstein, brother journalists who were banned from Twitter after being accused of creating fake accounts and purchasing “bots” to boost their tweets against President Donald Trump, have 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 say 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 called them “progressive political activists famous for trolling Donald Trump and his supporters.” But the New York Times confirmed that in 2017 Reade “retweeted praise for Mr. Biden and his work combating sexual assault.”
More recently, Reade has posted pro-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.”
She directed this tweet at New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, including a copy of her employment record:
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.”
2. Reade Alleged in a Podcast Interview That Biden Sexually Assaulted Her Against a Wall in 1993
Podcast host Katie Halper, who is considered a progressive politically, posted Reade’s interview on Soundcloud, writing on Twitter, “This is a story that @ReadeAlexandra has been trying to tell since it happened in 1993. It’s a story about sexual assault, retaliation and silencing. #meToo.” On Twitter, Halper defines herself as “co-host of @rollingstone’s Useful Idiots podcast with Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi. Host of the Katie Halper Show podcast.”
In an excerpt from the podcast, Halper said there was “more to her story” than Reade had shared before publicly. In spring 2019, Reade considered telling her full story, says Halper, “but she was doxed and smeared as a Russian agent. There are now witnesses to the story. … Her brother and close friend recall her telling them about the incident at the time,” said Halper. 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.
During the interview, Reade said 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 Rising with Krystal and Saagar on Hill TV. You can watch that interview below.
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 the AP a statement from Baker saying, “I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone.”
The 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.”
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.
Reade told the AP she filed a written report but couldn’t produce it because she says it is with non-public files at the University of Delaware. However, she later told ABC News that the complaint didn’t allege an assault but rather stated she felt uncomfortable at work. Some are calling on Biden to release those records. 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 MSNBC 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 now so they don’t become “fodder” for the campaign.
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.
Reade also gave a similar account to the New York Times, which reported that she said Biden “pinned her to a wall in a Senate building, reached under her clothing and penetrated her with his fingers.”
3. Reade’s Mother Called Into the Larry King Show Years Ago & Reade’s Former Neighbor & Others Say She Told Them About the Allegations At the Time
What corroboration is there for Reade’s claims? With no eyewitnesses to the alleged assault and no police report at the time, journalists have looked for evidence that Reade told other people in the past. They have found some.
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.”
It has 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 story, 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. Sen. Biden, her boss at the time. Reade claims she told her mother, brother Collin Moulton and a friend about the allegations at the time; the latter two have confirmed that claim but Reade’s mother, Altimus, died in 2016, the publication reported. Heavy has reached out to Moulton for comment. 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.”
In addition, 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. Biden denies the allegations. 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.
AP 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.”
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.
4. Reade Previously Came Forward With Different Allegations After Another Woman Accused Biden of Being Inappropriate
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 Sen. 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 claimed that Biden then “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 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 calls 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 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 nonprofit status.
5. Reade Was Criticized for Comments She Made About Vladimir Putin
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.
She wrote on Twitter that she was once a volunteer for the “RFK Memorial.”
In the Medium article, Reade gave more details about her background and biography. “The first powerful man who abused me physically and emotionally was my father,” she wrote. “He was rich and a defense contractor but did not like children, only the process of getting them. He never shared his wealth with any of his children or family but squandered it on women he met and his own indulgences like the modern day pirate he was. But oh, how everyone wanted his attention and approval, even other men.”
She wanted to be an actress early on, writing, “When I was 18 years old, I had already starred in Equity productions of classical theatre. I had started acting in plays as a child and did school theatre, community and regional theatre, sprinkled with some radio and television commercials.”
She spent time in Hollywood, explaining, “My time in Hollywood was one of the best times of my life. I was a theatre geek in love with the process of creating a production. I modeled and acted in Hollywood, got bit parts, great theatre parts, high paying model gigs, an agent, and even came close, so close, but no starring roles.”
She then moved to Washington, D.C., and political work, writing, “I worked for a prominent congressman and was hired later by Senator Joe Biden. Joe Biden was my political hero. I reported Joe Biden’s sexual harassment of me at a time when no one listened and supervisors looked at me like I was the one with the problem.”
In an April 2019 column in the Union, 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.