Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez addressed the accusation of sexual assault against the party's presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, comparing the controversy to another that dogged the party's 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton, which some in the party believe contributed to her defeat in that year's election.
"This is like the Hillary emails, because there was nothing there," Perez told ABC's "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz, referring to the former secretary of state's criticized use of a private email server as he addressed 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. Biden has denied the assault occurred.
In defending the former vice president, Perez cited the "exhaustive" review of Biden conducted by the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, which the party chair said did not uncover such an accusation or else the senator from Delaware would not have been selected to join that year's ticket.
"The most comprehensive investigation of the vice president was when he was vetted by Barack Obama in 2008. I'm very familiar with vice presidential vetting process," said Perez, who was himself considered for the role by Clinton. "They look at everything about you. They looked at the entire history of Joe Biden, his entire career, and I will tell you, if Barack Obama had any indication that there was an issue, Barack Obama would not have had him as his vice president."
The delay in Biden's response to -- and widespread media coverage of -- the accusation, was the target of criticism by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who also appeared on "This Week" Sunday, comparing the situation to the allegations faced by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and blasting what she characterized as a double standard.
"It has been appalling the hypocrisy as to how Brett Kavanaugh was treated versus Joe Biden," McDaniel said. "Brett Kavanaugh -- every accuser was put on TV, it was wall-to-wall coverage, they went into his high school yearbook, they said they needed an FBI investigation."
"It went from 'me too,' 'me too,' 'me too,' to 'move on,' 'move on,' 'move on' in a nanosecond because he's a Democrat and the hypocrisy is appalling," the chairwoman added.
The Trump campaign has used the issue to attack Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole on what they view as dueling positions regarding those allegations, releasing a digital ad on the controversy Friday. But that same day, the president -- who has faced several sexual assault accusations himself, all of which he has denied -- offered encouragement to Biden, saying he was "sticking up for him" and that the former vice president should "go out and fight it."
Asked about that quote Sunday, McDaniel expanded the discussion to a broader argument about "due process" in the aftermath of such complaints.
"Due process and the presumption of innocence has no longer been the standard in this country when it comes to Republicans, and now Democrats are suddenly embracing those legal standards that we have made the cornerstone of our -- of our country when it comes to Joe Biden, but they threw it out the window when it came to Brett Kavanaugh," she said.
The assault allegation by Reade has, in some ways, supplanted Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis as the focus of much of the Democratic Party's attention in recent days, after Perez and the DNC spent weeks blasting the administration's handling of the pandemic and amplifying relief proposals and positions on related issues, such as vote-by-mail and the president's relationship with China, all while continuing to prepare for November's elections.
"This president has been chronically inept at handling this coronavirus," Perez said on "This Week" Sunday. "He needs to be the commander-in-chief not the tweeter-in-chief, he needs to understand that the buck stops with him, and that's what we're going to talk about in this campaign: accountability. We're going to talk about leadership."
On the Republican side, Trump's stewardship of the country during the crisis appears to be affecting his polling, with reports in recent days claiming that the president berated his campaign manager Brad Parscale when presented with sliding numbers. Both Trump and Parscale have denied details of the reports and McDaniel brushed aside concerns over polling Sunday.
"You know, I don't really rely on polling this far out … the polling is going to fluctuate and we all know the polling today is not going to be what we see on Nov. 3," McDaniel said on "This Week," later adding that the president is "optimistic" about the race.
"He feels very good about where he stands, he's had record approval with the Republican Party … and we think Joe Biden is hiding," she said.
Under McDaniel's leadership, the Republican National Committee has been a fundraising juggernaut, teaming with the Trump reelection campaign to raise over $200 million in the first quarter of 2020. Democrats have expressed concerns about their rivals' fundraising advantage and the unprecedented partnership between party and presidential campaign, originally formed in 2016, allowing donors to contribute to both groups simultaneously. In April, the DNC entered into a similar agreement with presumptive presidential nominee Biden.
Beyond the fundraising shortfall, Democrats are also raising questions about Biden's efficacy as a campaigner amid the unprecedented limitations imposed by the pandemic. Perez did not provide a specific timeline for the former vice president's return to traditional campaign events, but argued the party can be, and has been, successful nevertheless.
"We're going to make sure that we do everything in a safe and intelligent manner. We have changed our tactics, we have been out in the field digitally, we have our digital clipboards out, we won a very important race recently in Wisconsin because we out-hustled the other side," he said, referring to Wisconsin's Supreme Court election last month.
"When the situation clears we will be out, but we are not going to put voters in harm's way. We won't do that until it is appropriate to do so," he added.
Wisconsin is also serving the role as the host of the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee in mid-August, after the party decided last month to postpone the event from its original mid-July date. Asked Sunday if the party planned to move ahead with an in-person convention, Perez answered positively.
"We do, and we're not going to put our public health head in the sand, but I'm optimistic that we can do so," he said.