This story has been circulating various news outlets for days, perhaps weeks now, and it finally boiled to a point where former Vice President Joe Biden was forced to personally respond concerning allegations against him of a sexual assault in 1993. On this website, we take a particularly cautioned stance toward these kinds of allegations launched against any politician, of either party, due to the potential for politically-motived false and/or misleading information. However, with the candidate now addressing the topic, there are enough known facts and in-depth reporting to provide some coverage.
The accuser, Tara Reade, was an aide in Biden’s senate office and claims she filed a formal complaint at the time which, she says, should be contained somewhere in the official record of Biden’s senate correspondence. This point seems to be in question with Biden claiming he has asked for records to be unsealed from the National Archives.
Biden appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, speaking with Mika Brezinski, for almost 20 minutes on Friday morning. Watch Biden respond, in his own words, to several of the points in question:
Biden in his own words denies the allegation, and until some kind of further evidence emerges, the allegation does not appear, at the moment, to be hindering his quest for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
So far, women on the list of Biden’s potential VP picks have stood by him, and brushed aside the story, according to CNBC:
Multiple female politicians are throwing their support behind former Vice President and apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden as he responds to a sexual assault allegation from 27 years ago.
Biden got votes of confidence from prominent Democratic women on Tuesday, including from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the first to call for former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has openly pitched herself as a vice presidential pick, said in an interview with CNN Tuesday night that she believes Biden over Tara Reade, the woman who filed a complaint with D.C. police saying that Biden sexually assaulted her while he served in the Senate in 1993.
As with most politically-charged stories of sexual misconduct, the headline is often less about the allegation itself, and more about the way media chooses to cover, or not cover it.
For example, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes faced calls of boycott and a social media firestorm from Biden supporters with calls for the host to be fired for bringing up the Reade allegations on his show this week, according to Yahoo News:
On Thursday, Twitter users demanded that MSNBC #FireChrisHayes, so much so, that the hashtag began trending. The tweets are coming from both right-wing media and Democratic constituents who are all upset that the host of All In With Chris Hayes covered sexual assault allegations against the presumed Democratic candidate for president on his show. The trending topic is highlighting the inflammatory discourse that has bubbled up around the allegations against Joe Biden by a former staffer, Tara Reade.
On Wednesday night, Hayes dedicated a segment of his show to discussing Reade’s allegations. “There have been moments… for all of us when we have heard about accusations against someone that we find ourselves desperately wanting not to believe,” Hayes said to open the segment. He continued on in describing difficulties when accusations are against someone for whom we have “political admiration— someone on our ‘side.’”
Left-leaning outlets, such as CNN, have been quieter in reporting the story, with the exception of Biden’s interview this morning on MSNBC.
On the other side of the spectrum, Fox News has been hyping every detail as a breaking news alert and has put much more time into peddling the allegations. The right-leaning outlet has been covering the story, in greater detail, for several weeks now with many segments devoted to the Reade allegation in Fox’s primetime evening programming.
The Washington Post put together a timeline of the allegation, which basically encompasses the allegation itself, in 1993, and then jumps 27 years to March of 2020, when Reade herself revealed the claim in a podcast and provided a graphic description:
She said she was delivering Biden a gym bag somewhere in the Capitol area (which has multiple buildings) but doesn’t remember exactly where. She said Biden pinned her against a wall, reached under her skirt (she said she wasn’t wearing any stockings) and pushed his fingers inside her.
In April, both the Washington Post and New York Times reported on the allegations, citing at least one acquaintance who corroborated Reade’s claims, but also found several others who cast doubt on the story:
The Post and the New York Times both publish investigative reports on the same day. Both reports find a friend who anonymously corroborates Reade’s story, but they also find half a dozen to a dozen former staffers at the time who do not recall something like this or any other assault allegation taking place.
Then, just days ago, on April 24, a tape surfaced of a woman calling into CNN’s Larry King Live television show in 1993 claiming her daughter was encountering trouble working with a prominent Senator in Washington, DC. Tara Reade has now claimed the woman calling was in fact Reade’s own mother:
A woman who called into the show that year, identified as from the city where Reade’s mother would have been living at the time, said her daughter was having “problems” with “a prominent senator” and wanted suggestions other than going to the press. She did not mention any names nor give details. Reade has since heard the recording and said it was her mom, who died in 2016.
Then, on April 27, a former neighbor of Reade claims to corroborate her story as well, though Reade never mentioned telling any neighbors:
Business Insider reports that Reade’s neighbor in the mid-1990s said that Reade told her Biden had “put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her,” which is what Reade accuses Biden of doing. This neighbor was willing to go on the record with her name. “I remember talking about it,” Lynda LaCasse told Business Insider. LaCasse lived next to Reade in California in 1995-1996, where Reade moved after working in Washington. She confirmed her comments in a text message to The Post, saying she is “a very strong Democrat and am supporting Joe Biden during this election.”
Reade told The Post that after it happened she told her mother, her brother and a friend but did not mention a neighbor.
Finally, to cap the story off up to this point, Biden spoke with MSNBC on Friday in the interview posted above marking the first time he has spoken personally on the issue. Up to this point, the campaign has released statements through surrogates.
There are only two ways this story will end. If no further meaningful evidence is produced, the story likely dies as a he-said/she-said situation, much like the allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. However, if further evidence does come to light, such as an official record of a complaint filed in 1993, then the allegations could be cast in a new light causing some of Biden’s prominent supporters to call for further investigations.
For what it’s worth, Tara Reader has stated she is a supporter of Joe Biden, and a lifelong Democrat, and kept quiet during the Obama years to prevent harming the administration. True motivations are always unknown in these circumstances, and stories from friends and past acquaintances lend some credibility, but doubt remains without more concrete evidence.
It’s likely we haven’t heard the last of this story during this election cycle.