"I’m not going to go after Tara Reade for saying these things," the former vice president said on Friday. "It’s simple: What are the facts? Do any of the things she said, do they add up?"

By Benjamin VanHoose and Dave Quinn
May 01, 2020 10:10 AM
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Joe Biden on Friday — for the first time — directly addressed the sexual assault allegation made against him by Tara Reade.

The former vice president, 77, appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and was asked to respond to the claim made by Reade, who was a junior staffer in his Senate office in 1992 and 1993.

Reade alleges that Biden kissed her and penetrated her with his fingers when she went to give him a gym bag on Capitol Hill.

She previously told a local newspaper in April 2019 that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office, he crossed a line by touching her on the shoulder and neck and he wanted her to essentially waitress at an event to show off her legs for him.

"It is not true," Biden said at the start of the interview with Mika Brzezinski, referring to the alleged assault. "I’m saying it unequivocally: It never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened."

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

Biden previously denied Reade's account via a statement from a spokeswoman. His campaign has also pointed to other aides in Biden's office from that time who dispute Reade's story, though two women who knew her later have spoken up to support parts of her allegations.

Reade was originally among several woman who said Biden's touching made them physically uncomfortable.

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

“He just had me up against the wall,” Reade told Halper. “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,” Reade said. “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.”

Reade also said that she tried to tell other people what happened to her afterward.

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.

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

When asked specifically about Reade, now 56, Biden said said on Morning Joe that he didn't "remember any type of complaint she may have made."

"It was 27 years ago. I don’t remember, nor does anyone else I’m aware of," he said.

He said he had not reached out to Reade. "It’s 27 years ago. This never happened, and when she first made the claim we made it clear that it never happened," he said. "And that’s as simple as that."'

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party said that he was "confident" that there was no complaint filed.

When asked whether he would disclose any complaints made against him, Biden said he was an "open book."

"I’m prepared to do that," he said. "To the best of my knowledge, there’s been no complaints made against me in terms of my Senate career. ... Look, this is an open book — there’s nothing for me to hide, nothing at all."

He said that his papers given to the University of Delaware, which are not yet available, contain only his public work such as speeches.

Some have called on Biden to make those papers public or to search through them for anything pertaining to Reade, to see if she can be corroborated or disproved, which he was asked about on Morning Joe.

He said he was "absolutely certain" there was nothing about Reade in his Delaware papers and said the search should be elsewhere, if her complaint was real.

"If that document existed, it would be stored in the National Archives, where documents from the office she claims to have filed a complaint with are stored. That’s where they are stored," Biden said. "The Senate controls those archives. So I’m asking the secretary of the Senate today to identify whether any such document exists. If it does, make it public."

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

Biden said he stands by his belief that those coming forward with sexual assault claims should be heard "with the presumption that they are telling the truth," and then the claims should be vetted.

"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," he added, "and in this case, the truth is, the claims are false."

After speaking on Halper's podcast in March, Reade was interviewed by the Associated Press, the TimesNBC News and others.

Reade told The Washington Post she did not remember the exact location of their alleged encounter, but that they were in semi-private.

At one point, Reade said, Biden was allegedly kissing her and asked, “Do you want to go somewhere else?” before she pulled away from him. Biden looked “almost puzzled or shocked,” she told the Times, and said, “Come on, man. I heard you liked me.”

She reportedly worked for then-Sen. Biden as a staff assistant, employed in his office from December 1992 to August 1993.

Biden, in his Friday interview, said that he was not going to question Reade's motives.

"This never, ever happened," he said.

"I’m not going to start questioning her motive, I’m not going to get into that," he continued. "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."