Presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Wednesday he has a proud history of campaigning against sexual violence, as he faces mounting pressure to respond to a fresh assault allegation made by a former aide.
The presumptive Democratic nominee has been accused by Tara Reade of assaulting her in 1993, when she was a 29-year-old staff assistant in the office of Biden, then a US senator from Delaware.
Biden’s campaign has denied the claims, but he himself has not responded directly to the allegations by Reade, now 56.
Earlier, days before Joe Biden sealed his place as the Democratic nominee to take on Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election, a woman told the host of a niche podcast that the former vice-president once sexually assaulted her.
However he touted his record of supporting abuse victims when asked a question about military prosecutions for felonies including rape at a virtual town hall late Wednesday.
“As you know, I wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act, transformed how this country gets justice and support to survivors and led the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to fight sexual assault on campuses. As VP, I fought to provide a special victims counsel for sexual assault cases in the military,” the 77-year-old said.
He promised that “all options are on the table” when it came to assaults in the military.
Biden spoke as the furor surrounding the claim by Reade continues to grow, despite a statement issued by his campaign on April 13 which said the incident “absolutely did not happen.”
The claim has drowned out other news about Biden, such as his search for a running mate, who he has pledged will be a woman.
President Donald Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has flooded his Twitter feed with mocking references to Reade’s allegation, ignoring the string of accusations made by women against his own candidate.
More than a dozen women have accused the real estate mogul of sexual misconduct including rape before he became president.
Biden has not been asked directly about Reade’s allegation in either the interviews he has given from his Delaware home, where he has been confined because of the coronavirus pandemic, or various online campaign events.
– ‘Everything shattered’ –
According to Reade, the assault took place in August 1993 in a hallway on Capitol Hill.
“We were alone, and it was the strangest thing,” Reade said in a late March interview on the Katie Halper Show podcast. “There was no, like, exchange, really, he just had me up against the wall.
“His hands were on me and underneath my clothes and, yeah, he went, he went down my skirt but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers,” she said.
“He was kissing me at the same time,” she said.
Reade said she pulled away and Biden allegedly said: “Come on man, I heard you liked me.”
“For me everything shattered at that moment,” Reade said.
Reade has since recounted her story to other media outlets, and filed an incident report with the Washington police in early April — seen by AFP — in which she did not name Biden.
“This is an inactive case,” a police spokesman told AFP when asked about the status of the matter.
Reade told the right-leaning Washington Examiner that she had filed the report to show she was serious and establish a paper trail.
Other women have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately in the past, and Reade’s initial claims were similar — less severe than her most recent allegations.
The New York Times reported that it had interviewed Reade on multiple occasions, along with her friends and others who worked for Biden in the early 1990s.
According to the Times, no former Biden staffers corroborated her account, and a pattern of misconduct was not uncovered.
A friend said Reade had told her about the alleged assault at the time. A second friend said Reade told her in 2008 of a traumatic experience while working in Biden’s office.
Reade said she had also related the incident to her brother.
The allegations have led some supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dropped out of the Democratic race and endorsed Biden, to call on the former vice president to end his White House bid.
“Out of respect for survivors and for the good of the country, he should withdraw from the race,” said Claire Sandberg, the former national organizing director of the Sanders campaign.