In both a written statement and an appearance on MSNBC Friday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden denied that he sexually assaulted former Senate aide Tara Reade in 1993, the first time the presumptive Democratic nominee has personally addressed the allegation in public.
"No, it is not true," Biden said on MSNBC. "I'm saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn't. It never happened... The claims are false."
Joe Biden, asked on @Morning_Joe if he sexually assaulted Tara Reade:
“No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.” pic.twitter.com/nXIAdGloG5
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 1, 2020
Joe Biden on past comments about believing women: "From the very beginning, I've said believing women means taking the woman's claims seriously...Women have a right to be heard and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make...In the end, the truth is what matters." pic.twitter.com/pTfqvdINwd
— Axios (@axios) May 1, 2020
Biden's denial came as he faced growing pressure to address Reade's allegation that he cornered her in the halls of the U.S. Capitol building and penetrated her with his fingers, a claim that was corroborated by a former neighbor of Reade's in an interview with Business Insider earlier this week.
In a written statement posted to Medium, Biden called on the Secretary of the Senate to request that the National Archives identify and "make available to the press" any complaint filed by Reade.
Reade said she submitted a complaint about Biden to a congressional human resources office.
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"There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be—the National Archives," Biden said. "If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there."
In reaction to Biden's denial, the women's group Time's Up Now, which advocates on behalf of sexual assault victims, said the former vice president's comments should be seen as a sign of progress but by "no means is the conversation about sexual assault and power in America over."
"We have reached a pivotal moment in our nation when candidates for president are accused of sexual assault," said Tina Tchen, the group's president and CEO, in a statement. "Today, Vice President Joe Biden sat down and directly addressed the allegation against him with the seriousness it deserves, something that the current president has never done."
"No longer can claims like this go ignored," added Tchen. "Biden needed to address Tara Reade's allegation today. We call for complete transparency into this claim and the multiple claims against President Donald Trump. As we go forward, American voters are entitled to a full understanding of all allegations of this nature. Women should be heard, treated respectfully, and have their allegations taken seriously."
Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said that the #MeToo movement's demand for Biden to address the accusation and demonstrate leadership on the crucial issue of sexual assault and violence against women "is not in contradiction with our commitment to defeat Trump. It is, in fact, central to that effort."
According to Archila, "Those who are accused of perpetuating or enabling violence have a role to play in the effort to transform our society. They can model how to receive with empathy and circumspection the stories of individuals or communities who speak about the harm they have endured. They can model how to tease out from the story of one person the elements of our collective experience, and they can model willingness to take responsibility."
"This morning he spoke for the first time about the allegations by Tara Reade, and issued yet another blanket denial of the assault, without any reflections on how women, and survivors of all genders, are treated in our society," she said. "As someone seeking to govern the country, he has a responsibility to model how to hold the pain of survivors and speak about the reality of our collective experience, even as he denies the allegations against him. That is the role of a leader."
But while the accusations against Biden must be fully investigated, Archila said that with Trump in the White House, "Our country is at a moment of grave danger."
"We cannot afford to have four more years of Trump," she added, "and we will do everything necessary to defeat him in November."