"Do any of the things she said, do they add up?" Biden said last week. "It never happened"

By Adam Carlson
May 08, 2020 07:55 PM
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A week after former Vice President Joe Biden appeared on TV to "unequivocally" deny her allegation of sexual assault, former Senate aide Tara Reade went on camera, too — and in a sometimes emotional interview with Megyn Kelly, she described the aftermath of an alleged attack that she said had "shattered" her.

"I wanted to say ‘stop,’ and I thought it," Reade, now 56, recalled at one point in the 42-minute interview, which Kelly released on YouTube on Friday after posting select clips to social media the day before.

"I don’t know if I said it," Reade continued, soon growing tearful. "But sometimes, when I’ve had a couple bad dreams or a few bad dreams about it, I wake up yelling that and I wake up yelling 'stop.' "

"He didn’t look at me again. … He turned around and he walked away and he never looked back," Reade told Kelly, 49, of what she alleges was a sexual assault by Biden in the hallway of a building on Capitol Hill in the spring of 1993, following earlier harassment from him while she worked in his office.

(He denies both of these and his campaign says other ex-staffers undercut Reade’s claims.)

Her interview with Kelly, a former Fox News and NBC News anchor, marked Reade's first major on-camera appearance following smaller online video interviews and previous interviews with numerous national media outlets.

Over the course of her sit-down with Kelly, Reade repeated — in detail — the allegations of harassment and assault she has previously made in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and elsewhere. She first went public with her story in a late-March episode of The Katie Halper podcast.

According to Reade, Biden kissed her and then penetrated her genitals with his fingers sometime in the spring of '93 when she was sent to give him a gym bag. She was a staff assistant in his office and was 29; he was 50.

"He said, 'I want to f--- you,' and he said it low and I was pushing away," Reade told Kelly, “and I remember my knee hurting because our knees, he had opened my legs with his knee and our kneecaps clashed."

In an interview on Morning Joe on May 1, Biden, 77, said Reade's assault allegation was "not true."

"I’m saying it unequivocally: It never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened," he said.

Tara Reade in April
Max Whittaker/The New York Times/Redux

Biden’s spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said Thursday, after Kelly began airing clips from her Reade interview: "Women must receive the benefit of the doubt. They must be able to come forward and share their stories without fear of retribution or harm — and we all have a responsibility to ensure that. At the same time, we can never sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that these allegations are false and that the material that has been presented to back them up, under scrutiny, keeps proving their falsity."

Bedingfield also pointed to an article published by Vox that quoted a friend of Reade's changing her story: According to Vox, Reade said she told this friend of the alleged assault in '93, but the friend initially spoke to Vox last year and said Biden "never tried to kiss her directly. He never went for one of those touches."

More recently, however, the friend said she could corroborate Reade's assault claim and had only said otherwise so as not to "betray" her.

Reade's harassment and abuse claims have been vigorously denied by Biden and his presidential campaign, which pointed to aides in his office at the time who also disputed Reade's account.

Supporters of Reade have spoken out for her as well: A former neighbor and a co-worker at another job said last week that she told them about either Biden's alleged harassment or assault in the '90s. (The neighbor remembered Reade recounting an assault; the co-worker described it as sexual harassment but did not remember more details.) Reade has also said she told her mother, who is now dead, about the alleged assault at the time and also told her brother, Collin Moulton, and two friends, according to the AP and the Post.

Reade told Kelly and has told other outlets that she tried to share what happened to her after the attack. But after there was no action taken over Biden's alleged harassment and assault, she filed a written complaint with the Senate personnel office, she said — and soon afterwards had her work duties limited and was moved to a windowless office.

A copy of the complaint Reade said she filed has not been located. Biden said on Morning Joe that it would be in the National Archives, not with his donated papers at the University of Delaware, and called for a search of those materials.

Reade was originally among several woman who said Biden's touching made them physically uncomfortable. Biden has said he never touched anyone with ill intent and chalked his behavior up to shifting social norms, saying he would be better about personal space.

In March, Reade alleged on The Katie Halper Show podcast that there was more to her story.

In her first public account of the altercation, Reade told Halper in the podcast episode on March 25: “He just had me up against the wall. The wall was cold. I remember it happened all at once.”

"The gym bag, I don’t know where it went, I handed it to him and it was gone,” she told Halper. “And his hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and then he went down my skirt but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers.”

Tara Reade (left) and Megyn Kelly

Reade told Kelly in the Friday interview that the alleged altercation took less than three minutes.

"I don’t really care if people believe it or not, I’ve had to live with it," she said. "And it’s just one of those things that’s impacted and shattered my life."

Kelly also asked her to address Biden's emphatic denial and some of the discrepancies raised against her accusations, such as her previous positive statements about Biden, her unusual affection for Russia and its authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, and the fact that her claims are denied by other former Biden staffers.

Reade also talked of what she said were the "smears" and mob-like attacks against her after she spoke out.

She said she wanted Biden to leave the presidential race but expected he wouldn’t and said it was "a little late" for an apology that should have come 27 years ago. She said that she was willing to testify under oath and be cross-examined.

Asked by Kelly if she would submit to a polygraph, Reade noted that such tests are viewed skeptically by the courts and that she wasn't a "criminal," but if Biden would take one then so would she.

Reade, who previously supported Biden when he was President Barack Obama's vice president, has described herself as a progressive and lifelong Democrat who had been left "politically homeless" after coming forward. She said she was leaving the Democratic Party.

She told Kelly she was not acting out of partisanship — but, she said, there was a broader political dimension to her trying to, in her view, unmask someone who wanted to be the president.

"This is about watching the person that assaulted me be elevated to the highest office in the land," she said. "He’s running on a platform of character and I found that gross."

To Democratic voters who might be struggling with how to rectify her claims when weighed against President Donald Trump, whom Biden is seeking to oust from office and who himself has faced more than a dozen disputed allegations of misconduct, harassment and rape, Reade said:

"You don’t have to discredit or not believe me to vote for Joe Biden. Voting is a very personal thing and I’m not here to influence a national election. And I don’t want to be. I do not want to help Donald Trump win. I do not want to help Joe Biden win, obviously, he’s the person that hurt me."

"I want other survivors to know that they can come forward," she said.

She said she felt like she had been widely disparaged in the public eye because of her story and that she was not being treated fairly under the same "believe all women" ethos she said was animating support for previous women in the #MeToo era, such as Christine Blasey Ford. She spoke critically of Democratic politicians who were not supporting her despite support for other women.

At the same time, however, she seemed to resist labels.

"I think that there needs to be a conversation rather than a hashtag," Reade said while noting, "I believe in the survivors that have come forward."

From left: former Vice President Joe Bide and Tara Reade (in an undated photo)
Darrian Traynor/Getty; Tara Reade/Twitter

At different points in the interview, Kelly asked Reade to respond to what her critics have called contradictions or issues in her behavior as well as other people who have pushed back on her allegations.

Asked about her past public support of Biden, including positive social media posts about him even in recent years, Reade said, "I’ve always been conflicted about Joe Biden, I didn’t want to talk badly about him and I wasn’t ready to tell my history with Joe Biden at that point at all."

Of her past pro-Russia statements, Reade said she was speaking out against "xenophobia" and that she had been working on a novel and studying Russia, which may have led her to make some of her declarations. But she said her opinions had changed.

"If you read all of the posts, they’re a lot about Russia and the anti-Russia sentiment that we have and I don’t like xenophobia and I was writing a Russian novel," she said.

But, she acknowledged, "The truth of the matter is I’ve never been to Russia," and she said she hadn't been as aware of the problems with the government there or with Putin, such as his poor human rights record.

As recently as last year Reade made pro-Russia posts on her Medium blog or tweets sympathizing with the “compassionate, caring, visionary” Putin, whom American intelligence officials broadly agree has mounted various campaigns to sow discord with the U.S. “With all due respect, Vladimir Putin is always cast as a villain by America. But is he?” Reade tweeted in December. “I worked for the Senate, I know the plan to bring Russia to its knees.”

In a since-deleted post from 2018, she wrote of “the reckless imperialism of America” when recounting her decision to leave Washington, D.C., politics to pursue her artistic passions.

"Our American empire is falling and failing, not because of some imagined threat from a foreign nation but because of our collective greed," she wrote in 2018.

Speaking with Kelly in the interview that aired Friday, Reade said that being sullied as a "Russian agent" was a real and serious insult that had led to a death threat against her.

"But all of that aside has nothing to do with what happened in 1993 or where Joe Biden had his hands where they weren’t supposed to be," she said.

She also dismissed the three former Biden staffers who have gone on the record to dispute her account — two of his top aides and his longtime assistant, whom Reade worked for as a staff assistant in the '90s — and said that the copy of a complaint she filed with the Senate personnel office in '93, which has not been corroborated, would prove decisive given Biden's denial that it exists.

While Reade suggested that her experience was possibly preventing other women from sharing allegations about Biden ("I think I’m a poster child as to why a woman wouldn’t come forward"), in a strange way being in the spotlight had "been freeing,” she said.

"My end game is basically telling my story in a dignified way, not be torn apart, and it’s being able to move on with my life and heal," she told Kelly.

She was not a "perfect" victim, she said. But she had endured the scrutiny so far.

"In a way, it’s just set me free."

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Biden and Others Respond

On Morning Joe last week, Biden — whom Reade criticized in her Kelly interview for not publicly commenting on her for weeks — was absolute in his response.

"This never, ever happened," he told co-host Mika Brzezinski.

"From the very beginning I’ve said believing women means taking the women’s claims seriously when she steps forward, and then vet it and look into it. That’s true in this case as well," he said. "Women have a right to be heard and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I’ll always uphold that principle."

"But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters," Biden continued, "and in this case, the truth is, the claims are false."

In a separate statement posted on Medium, Biden said the harassment allegation wasn't true. (Brzezinski's questions were focused on the alleged assault.)

The New York Times and other news outlets have been unable to find a copy of the complaint Reade said she filed.

While Biden said on Morning Joe that the alleged complaint would not be in his donated papers with the University of Delaware, which he has declined to make public, he has asked the National Archives and Senate officials to look through documents there.

However, the archives reportedly said any paperwork would still be with the Senate, but officials there said they were bound by law mandating strict confidentiality around any such records, even if Reade had submitted a complaint.

Three aides from the Senate office whom Reade says she complained to of harassment have all said she didn't go to them.

"If it happened, I would have remembered it,” Dennis Toner, then the deputy chief of staff, told PEOPLE. “I don't remember it and I don't believe it's accurate." (Asked to respond to this, Reade told Kelly: "Look at the source.")

Reade said that in ‘93 she had gone to Marianne Baker, Biden's longtime assistant, to try to complain of harassment and at one point began to tell her about the alleged assault before Baker cut her off.

Biden’s campaign previously provided a statement from Baker denying all of this.

Baker said she had “absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events,” which she said “would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional and as a manager.”

"In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone," Baker said.

On Morning Joe last week, Biden said he had not reached out to Reade.

"I’m not going to start questioning her motive, I’m not going to get into that," he said. "I’m not going to go after Tara Reade for saying these things. It’s simple: What are the facts? Do any of the things she said, do they add up? It never happened."