Biden denies sexual assault allegation from former Senate staffer

This is the first time Biden has directly addressed the claims.

May 1, 2020, 1:15 PM

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday denied an allegation of sexual assault from Tara Reade, a former staffer who served in Biden’s Washington Senate office for a brief period in 1993.

“I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened.” Biden said in a statement Friday morning.

The accusations first surfaced publicly in late March, raised by Reade, 56, a California woman who once served as an entry-level Senate staff assistant. Reade alleged that Biden aides asked her to hand-deliver a gym bag to him in a Senate office building. And when she did, she alleges Biden moved in close, pinned her against a wall, slipped his hand under her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers.

Biden campaign officials have vehemently denied the allegations, but this is the first time Biden has directly addressed the claims.

In his statement, Biden also referenced the calls for him to release records that span his 36 year career in the Senate and are currently housed at the University of Delaware, which some believe could potentially contain materials relevant to Reade’s accusation -- in particular, a written complaint Reade said she filed on the incident.

In interviews with ABC News, Reade said that the complaint she filed against Biden only contained allegations of sexual harassment, and did not include the allegation of sexual assault she has since leveled against Biden.

Biden said Friday that the only place Reade’s alleged complaint would be is the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and called on the Secretary of the Senate to “make available” any record of the complaint she may have filed.

“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be – the National Archives. The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. 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 Friday morning.

In an interview Friday morning on MSNBC minutes after his statement denying the assault was released, Biden was similarly adamant that there is no merit to Reade’s claim.

“No, it is not true. I'm saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. It didn't, it never happened,” Biden said.

The former vice president, at times appearing frustrated by the consistent line of questioning, pushed back when pressed for the release of certain records from the collection he donated to the University of Delaware.

“First of all, let's get this straight. There are no personnel documents -- you can't do that,” Biden said,” again pointing to the National Archives as the location where any records about the complaint would be, if they existed.

Later on in the interview Biden also said one of the reasons he did not want to release all of his records housed at the University of Delaware is that they contain certain “position papers” and records of conversations with world leaders that should not be made public, adding that those should not be “fodder” in his ongoing campaign against President Trump.

“The fact is that, there's a lot of things -- speeches I've made, positions I've taken, interviews that I did overseas with people, all of those things relating to my job. And the idea that they would all be made public in the fact, while I was running for public office, they can be really taken out of context,” Biden said.

“And all of that to be fodder in a campaign, at this time, I don't know of anybody who's done anything like that,” he added.

Biden said he was not sure why Reade was coming forward with the allegations after 27 years, but stated he would not speculate about her motive, focusing instead on making sure the allegations were thoroughly vetted.

“I don't understand it, but I'm not going to go in and question her motive. I'm not going to attack her. She has a right to say whatever she wants to say, but I have a right to say, ‘Look at the facts, check it out, find out whether any of what she says is asserted is true,’” Biden said.

“This was not the atmosphere in my office at all. No one has ever said anything like this,” the former vice president added.

ABC News spoke with several people Reade said she shared her story with, including Reade’s brother, a friend, and former neighbor of hers who recounted Reade telling them of an incident involving Biden.

Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, initially told ABC News he only heard her account of the assault this spring. But after the initial interview in late March, Moulton texted ABC News later that day to “clarify” his account, saying he remembered his sister telling him in 1993 that Biden had “more or less cornered her against the wall” and ‘put his hands ‘up her clothes.’”

While Reade said she spoke with several people in the office about the incident, multiple former staffers to Bide say that they do not remember Reade ever bringing her complaint to them.

"She did not come to me, I would have remembered if she had, and I do not remember her," Ted Kaufman, Biden's chief of staff at the time told ABC News. "I would have well remembered her if she had come to me with this."

Both in his interview and his statement, Biden pointed to his work on the Violence Against Women Act that he spearheaded, saying he was “most proud” of that accomplishment, and pledging he will continue advocating for women going forward.

“I know how critical women’s health issues and basic women’s rights are. That has been a constant through my career, and as President, that work will continue. And I will continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard,” Biden wrote in the statement released Friday.

President Trump responded to Biden’s defense against Reade’s allegations, saying in an interview with the The Dan Bongino Show that aired on Friday that he thought Reade “seems very credible” but that he “could understand” Biden’s denial.

“I guess in a way you could say I'm sticking up for him,” Trump said. "I would just say to Joe Biden, just go out and fight it,” he added.

Trump has been accused more than a dozen times of sexual assault, allegations he has vehemently denied.

Several prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have come out in support of Biden in recent days, saying that they are satisfied with the denials from him and his campaign.

“I have complete respect for the #MeToo movement. I have four daughters and one son. And there's a lot of excitement around the idea that women will be heard, and will be listened to. There is also due process. And the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden. There's been statements from this campaign, not his campaign, but his former employees who ran his offices and the rest, that there was never any record of this,” Pelosi said at a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday.

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Monday, May 4, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

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