The Note: #MeToo questions loom over Biden veepstakes

Dems can point out that more women have accused Trump of sexual improprieties.

April 30, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

"What else do you think we should be talking about?" Joe Biden asked Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, as this cycle's presumptive Democratic nominee accepted the endorsement of last cycle's standard-bearer.

Clinton and Biden talked about COVID-19's impact on women, from health care and nutrition to domestic violence and pay disparities.

But there are others willing to answer Biden's question in different ways -- ones who put the former vice president and several of his potential running mates in an awkward spot.

A week Biden had hoped to use to showcase his support among women -- Thursday morning his campaign announced the team that will help winnow his choices for vice president, a slot he's only considering women for -- is in danger of being crowded out even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis by questions about a decades-old incident.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in Wilmington, Del., March 12, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in Wilmington, Del., March 12, 2020.
Matt Rourke/AP, FILE

Biden himself has yet to directly respond to a former Senate aide's allegation of a 1993 sexual assault. The story has been actively pushed by conservative media and members of President Donald Trump's family in recent weeks, and has gotten wider media attention as additional information has come out. (Read more of ABC News' reporting here.)

Biden's campaign has flatly denied that the incident occurred, while encouraging media outlets to report it out. That's happening in ways that test some Democrats against standards they set when the #MeToo movement first emerged.

The Biden campaign statement that says the incident alleged by Tara Reade "absolutely did not happen" also says that the former vice president "firmly believes that women have a right to be heard -- and heard respectfully."

Democrats can point out that far more women have accused Trump of sexual improprieties than have accused Biden. Trump has also denied wrongdoing.

It may not feel right to the campaign for Biden to have to answer for every allegation that might come out. But every day that Biden doesn't speak for himself will leave surrogates speaking somewhat uncomfortably for him.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Can the president order people to work in private companies and factories without the government adding and providing extra safety precautions? It's a question thrust into the headlines this week that is sure to linger for weeks to come.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday that the White House executive order that meat-packing plants should stay open does not overrule their joint guidance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OSHA added that local authorities cannot ignore expectations of social distancing and protective gear to force facilities to close or re-open.

OSHA currently has more than 4,500 active coronavirus-related complaints for all industries and has closed several complaints related to lack of worker protections in food production facilities.

PHOTO: A Tyson Fresh Meats plant is seen April 27, 2020, in Emporia, Kan.
A Tyson Fresh Meats plant is seen April 27, 2020, in Emporia, Kan.
Charlie Riedel/AP

There is early, anecdotal evidence suggesting that select meat plants may have experienced higher rates of infection than even some cruise ships. Approximately 19% of passengers aboard the infamous Diamond Princess ship in March tested positive, whereas about 25% of the workers at Smithfield foods in South Dakota tested positive -- currently 853 workers -- and only those who were symptomatic were tested.

There is a long history of tough fights for workers' rights starting and building in meat packing plants -- will this be another chapter?

Or with unemployment so high, will employees be willing and able to speak up if they feel unsafe? A government report in 2017 showed meatpacking plant workers were already hesitant to bring forward complaints for fear of retaliation.

The TIP with Benjamin Siegel

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday formally named seven Democrats to serve on the new House select committee focused on overseeing the $2.3 trillion in government spending on the coronavirus.

The panel, armed with a $2 million budget, will work in real time to supervise the rollout and administration of efforts to fight the outbreak -- which has now killed more than 60,000 Americans -- and blunt its impact on the economy.

PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi adjusts her face mask to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus as she attends a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 29, 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi adjusts her face mask to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus as she attends a news conference to announce members of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 29, 2020.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Led by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the Democratic whip, the roster includes the chairs of the Small Business, Oversight and Financial Services Committees -- a sign that the panel and its work will be a central focus for the caucus this year. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin dismissed the announcement and select committee, given the existing oversight work being done by the panels of jurisdiction on both sides of the Capitol.

"Instead of looking for innovative ways to help the American people, Speaker Pelosi has chosen to pursue 'impeachment 2.0' with a partisan and unnecessary oversight committee," said McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar. "During a time of unprecedented crisis, Congress must come together to speak with one voice -- the speaker's so-called coronavirus oversight task force is simply another partisan pursuit."


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who explains the findings of a major coronavirus treatment study. Then, University of Chicago economics professor and ABC News contributor Austan Goolsbee tells us why the economy is at a tipping point. And, ABC News Senior Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce examines how former Vice President Joe Biden is responding to a sexual assault allegation.

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" Podcast. With the legislation passed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., President Donald Trump may have "failed" to manage Americans' expectations, Republican ally, former governor of New Jersey and ABC News contributor Chris Christie told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.


  • President Donald Trump will meet with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at 11 a.m. and deliver remarks about protecting America's seniors at 4 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden holds an Instagram Live event with U.S. Women's Soccer player, Megan Rapinoe at 2:45 p.m. and participates in a virtual fundraising event in the evening.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

    Related Topics