Appearing on MSNBC’s “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” Thursday night, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden once again strongly denied the accusation that he sexually assault former staffer Tara Reade in 1993. But he also reiterated his assertion that “she has a right to be heard,” and said that people who believe her “probably shouldn’t vote for me.”
The matter came up early in his town hall appearance on the show, when O’Donnell asked Biden if he remembered Reade among his staffers. “Well, to be honest with you, I don’t,” Biden said. “But look, let me get something clear. When a woman makes a claim that she has been harassed or abused — and this claim has changed as it’s gone on — but harassed or abused, she should be taken seriously. She should come forward, share her story. She should be taken seriously.”
“And, Biden continued, “it should be thoroughly vetted. And every case, what matters is the truth. Truth is what matters. And the truth of the case is nothing like this ever ever happened. She has a right to be heard, but then it should be vetted, and the truth ultimately matters. And I give my word it never, ever happened.”
O’Donnell then asked Biden what we would say to people who might want to vote for him but also believe Reade’s account. “I think they should vote their heart. And if they believe Tara Reade they probably shouldn’t vote for me,” Biden said. “I wouldn’t vote for me if I believed Tara Reade.”
But Biden continued to deny the accusation, pointing to apparent inconsistencies in Reade’s account. “The fact is that, look at Tara Reade’s story. It changes considerably. I don’t want to question her motive,” he said. “I don’t want to question anything, other than to say the truth matters. This is being vetted. It’s been vetted. They went and interviewed scores of my employees over my whole career. This is just totally, thoroughly, completely out of character. And the idea that at a public place, in a hallway, I would assault a woman.”
“Anyway, I promise you it never happened,” Biden concluded. “This should be vetted. She should be thoroughly looked at and whether or not this happened, look at the story, follow the storyline and determine whether there’s any truth to it. And there is no truth to it, I promise you.”
Later in the episode, Joe Biden was joined on “The Last Word” by voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, widely considered a possible pick to be Biden’s vice presidential candidate. However, the pair did not make any campaign announcements during the show, focusing instead on the integrity of elections and safe ballot access for voters in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, Reade first told a local paper in Nevada County that Biden had inappropriately “put his hand on [her] shoulder and run his finger up [her] neck” when she worked in his Senate office and at the time specifically said he did not assault her. But in late March, Reade appeared on Katie Halper’s podcast to say that Biden, in 1993, had also pushed her up against a wall in a secluded area of the Capitol building, kissed her, reached under her skirt to penetrate her with his fingers, and then said “You’re nothing to me” after she pulled away.
Biden has consistently denied the accusations.