Joe Biden Addresses Sexual Assault Allegation: "This Never Happened"

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden-Getty - H 2020
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The former vice president and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee released a statement on Medium and spoke about the allegations on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.'

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Friday addressed a sexual assault allegation from former staffer Tara Reade, saying: "This never happened."

In a Medium post, Biden said: "I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened."

He added: "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. 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."

Biden also emphasized: "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."

Beyond that, Biden noted that Reade said she filed a complaint in 1993 but does not have a record of the complaint. Biden called on the secretary of the Senate to "ask the [National] Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document."

Despite suggestions that documents pertaining to Reade could be included among the papers the former vice president donated to the University of Delaware and calls to make that material available to search, Biden insisted that those records do not include personnel files.

"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," Biden wrote."If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there."

In his Medium post, Biden emphasized his work on anti-sexual assault initiatives, including the It's On Us college sexual assault organization and the Violence Against Women Act, and indicated he would continue to fight for women's rights.

"I have spent my career learning from women the ways in which we as individuals and as policy makers need to step up to make their hard jobs easier, with equal pay, equal opportunity, and workplaces and homes free from violence and harassment. I know how critical women’s health issues and basic women’s rights are. That has been a constant through my career, and as President, that work will continue. And I will continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard," Biden wrote. "We have a lot of work to do. From confronting online harassment, abuse, and stalking, to ending the rape kit backlog, to addressing the deadly combination of guns and domestic violence. We need to protect and empower the most marginalized communities, including immigrant and indigenous women, trans women, and women of color. We need to make putting an end to gender-based violence in both the United States and around the world a top priority. I started my work over 25 years ago with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. As president, I’m committed to finishing the job."

Biden also appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, speaking to co-hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist. Brzezinski took the lead in asking Biden about Reade's allegation before Scarborough and Geist asked him about the coronavirus pandemic.

During the TV appearance, Biden repeatedly stated that the alleged assault never happened. Brzezinski asked him directly, after recounting the details of the assault, if he sexually assaulted Tara Reade.

“No, it is not true," Biden said. "I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened."

The MSNBC host also brought up Biden's past comments that, "For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time." And she asked if the "essence" of Reade's allegation is real and why she would be "doing this."

"I'm not going to question her motive. I'm not going to get into that at all. 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 said. "But I'm not going to go in and question her motive. I'm not going to attack her. She has a right to say what she wants to say, but I have a right to say look at the facts, check it out, find out whether anything she says or asserted is true. Based on the investigations that have taken place so far, to the best of my knowledge, by two major papers, they interviewed dozens of my staff members. … This was not the atmosphere in my office at all. No one has ever said anything like this."

Asked why Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford should be believed and Tara Reade shouldn't be, an issue that partisan critics have jumped on as evidence of Democrats' hypocrisy, Biden argued that any woman with claims of sexual misconduct should be allowed to come forward and tell her story, but then those claims should be investigated.

"If there's anything that's consistent with what being said and she makes the case or the case is made, then it should be believed. But ultimately the truth matters. Truth matters," he added. "I fought my entire life to change the whole notion of the law and the culture around sexual assault and I fought to strengthen the process around sexual assault survivors. I believe we've come a long way and we have a long way to go before we're in a position where there's a fair and unbiased view, but at the end of the day it has to be looked at. These claims are not true."

At one point Biden, after reiterating his claim that Reade's allegations aren't true, added, "I don't know what else I can say to you."

To which Brzezinski said, "I am going to try to ask many different ways."

Indeed, she brought up the possibility of a double standard, citing quotes about Ford from Biden's prominent female supporters Stacey Abrams, Kirsten Gillibrand and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Are women to be believed unless it pertains to you?"

"Look, women are to be believed [and] given the benefit of the doubt. If they come forward and say something that they said happened to them, they should start off with the presumption they're telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts," he said. "And the facts in this case do not exist. They never happened. And there's so many inconsistencies in what has been said in this case. So yes, look at the facts, and I assure you it did not happen. Period."

Asked if he's positive there's no record of any complaint from Reade among the National Archives records, Biden said, in part, "I've known no one that was aware that any complaint was made."

Earlier in the interview, he said, "I don't remember any type of complaint she may have made. It was 27 years ago. I don't remember, nor does anybody else that I'm aware of."

And he said he never asked anyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Brzezinski repeatedly asked Biden why he wouldn't let someone search through the University of Delaware records for anything with Tara Reade's name on it, but he maintained that personnel files would not be included among those papers.

When asked what he would say to Reade, Biden reiterated, "This never, ever happened."

He added, "I don't know what is motivating her. I don't know what is behind any of it. But it is irrelevant. It never happened, period."

Biden also said that neither he nor anyone from his campaign has reached out to Reade.

The Biden campaign has previously also denied Reade’s allegation, but the former vice president was under pressure to himself respond to Reade's claims. Reade accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in a Capitol Hill office building in 1993 when she was one of his staffers.

Watch video of Biden's MSNBC appearance below.