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, where he was asked to respond to the claim made by Reade, who was a junior staffer in his Senate office in 1992 and 1993. She alleges that Biden kissed her and penetrated her with his fingers when she went to give him a gym bag on Capitol Hill.
"No, it is not true," Biden said at the start of the interview with Mika Brzezinski. "I’m saying it unequivocally: It never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened."
This marks the first time Biden has responded to the claim himself, previously denying 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.
She told a local newspaper in April 2019 that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in the '90s, 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.
Last month, however, Reade alleged on The Katie Halper Show podcast that there was more to her story.
“He just had me up against the wall,” she told Halper. “The wall was cold. I remember it happened all at once.”
Reade also says 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 says — 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 office whom Reade says she complained to at the time — Biden's executive assistant and his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff — have all said she didn't go to them.
When asked specifically about Reade, now 56, Biden said said on Morning Joe that he doesn'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. "The fact is, I don’t remember any complaint having been made."
He said he had not reached out to her. "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."
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."
In interviews with the Associated Press, the Times, NBC News and more news outlets, Reade claimed that Biden used his fingers to penetrate her under her skirt when she went to give him a gym bag at work.
She reportedly worked for then-Sen. Biden as a staff assistant, employed in his office from December 1992 to August 1993.
Reade told The Washington Post she did not remember the exact location of their alleged encounter, but that they were in semi-private.
“The gym bag, I don’t know where it went, I handed it to him and it was gone,” Reade told podcast host Katie Halper in a March 25 episode, the first time she made her allegations publicly. “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.”
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."
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