Joe Biden emphatically denied any wrongdoing when he finally addressed Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual assault against him on Friday morning.
“It is not true. I’m saying it unequivocally it never, never happened, and it didn’t. It never happened,” he told MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Reade alleged that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, while she was a staffer in his Senate office. She was delivering a gym bag to him in a Senate office building, she said, when Biden pressed her up against a wall, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers.
Though Biden said he doesn’t know why Reade was making the allegations, he refrained from smearing her or suggesting that she had an ulterior motive for coming forward.
“I’m not going to go in and question her motive. I’m not going to attack her,” the candidate said. “She has a right to say whatever she wants to say.”
“But I have a right to say, ‘Look at the facts, check it out. Find out whether what she says are true,’” he added.
Throughout the interview, Biden vehemently emphasized his desire for transparency with official records while tiptoeing around the question of why Reade would come forward.
Though the discussion with Brzezinski began with a neutral tone, Biden steadily grew irritated as the MSNBC anchor pushed him on the issue.
“These claims are not true. I don’t know what else I can say to you,” he said.
Shortly before the interview, Biden released a written statement defending his record on women and offering his first public denial of Reade’s allegations. Biden said he is asking the secretary of the Senate to to identify any record of a complaint from Reade.
Reade has said she complained about harassment at the time, but did not specifically complain about the alleged assault.
Biden claimed that whatever complaints that may have been made would not be sent to the University of Delaware library, but to the archives controlled by the Senate.
The former vice president said he was “confident” that there are no records of her alleged complaint in the archives, that he was willing to release any complaints that may have been made against him during his 30-year tenure in the Senate, and that he never had his female staffers sign an NDA.
“Look, this is an open book,” Biden told Brzezinski. “There’s nothing for me to hide, nothing at all.”
Joe Biden "unequivocally" denies Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations: "It never, never happened" pic.twitter.com/SB4VC05Qf3
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) May 1, 2020
Reade first came forward publicly with allegations against Biden in April 2019. Her initial allegations did not include a description of a sexual assault. She recalled in an interview with a local California newspaper that Biden “used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck” when she was a mid-20s staffer in his Senate office.
Then, in March of this year, Reade alleged in a podcast interview with progressive journalist Katie Halper that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993.
The allegation did not initially attract much attention. But Reade’s brother and Reade’s former neighbor have since stated that Reade shared the allegations with them in the mid-1990s.
Reade’s former neighbor, Lynda LaCasse, told Business Insider in a report published Monday that Reade described the alleged assault to her in detail in 1995 or 1996.
“I personally am a Democrat, a very strong Democrat,” LaCasse told Business Insider. “And I’m for Biden, regardless. But still I have to come out and say this.”
A former colleague of Reade’s, Lorraine Sanchez, also told Business Insider that she recalled Reade describing being “sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in D.C.”
The public reaction to the Reade allegations from most elected Democrats has balanced continued support for Biden with general expressions of support for victims of sexual misconduct. “I want to remove all doubt in anyone’s mind: I have a great comfort level with the situation as I see it, with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a weekly news conference on Thursday.
Biden had not personally addressed Reade’s allegations until Friday morning, but faced growing calls from across the political spectrum for him to do so.