Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a statement Friday denying a former Senate staffer’s claim that he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. Friday’s statement is the first detailed response from Biden to the misconduct allegation against him made by Tara Reade.
“I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago,” he said in a lengthy statement released ahead of an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday. “They aren’t true. This never happened.”
“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. News organizations that have talked with literally dozens of former staffers have not found one – not one – who corroborated her allegations in any way. Indeed, many of them spoke to the culture of an office that would not have tolerated harassment in any way – as indeed I would not have.”
“There is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified. The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993. But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint. The papers from my Senate years that I donated to the University of Delaware do not contain personnel files. It is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record: speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills.”
In a combative interview with “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski, Biden repeated his denial, saying “I don’t know why she’s saying this.”
Biden asked the National Archives to release any documents related to Reade’s claim. But he rejected the idea of releasing any records now held by the University of Delaware related to Reade, or even authorizing “a search for Tara Reade’s name in the University of Delaware records,” which Brzezinski suggested.
Biden says his papers at the university do not contain personnel files. But, he said, personnel files from the Senate during those days would be kept at the National Archives.
“I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there,” Biden said.
At several points, Brzezinski tried to get Biden to square his commitment to believing sexual assault survivors with his denial of Reade’s allegation.
“Are women to be believed unless it pertains to you?” Brzezinski asked.
“Look, women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt,” Biden responded. “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. And the facts in this case do not exist — they never happened. And there are so many inconsistencies in what has been said in this case. So yes, look at the facts. And I can assure you it did not happen, period, period.”
Biden also denied that Reade was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement, asserting that he has never made staffers sign NDAs.
Asked whether he would release all complaints against him, Biden said, “I’m prepared to do that,” and that to the best of his knowledge there are no claims of sexual misconduct on his part.
Marianne Baker, who was Biden’s executive assistant in the 1980s and 1990s when Biden was a senator, also previously said in a statement provided through the Biden campaign that she was never aware of any reports of inappropriate conduct, including from Reade.
“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. I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager,” Baker said. “These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”
Dennis Toner, who was Biden’s deputy chief of staff at the time and one of the people Reade said she had discussed her complaints with, told CNN in an interview on Thursday that he had no recollection of Reade or any conversation related to sexual harassment allegations.
“I clearly would remember if we — that is, if Tara and myself — had any kind of conversation regarding sexual harassment allegations, let alone something involving Sen. Biden. It would stick in my mind. It would be burned in my mind,” Toner said. “I don’t understand it.”