Former Vice President Joe Biden, after again emphatically denying the claim of a former staffer that he sexually assaulted her nearly three decades ago, acknowledged for the first time Thursday the dilemma now facing some potential supporters in November, saying: “They should vote with their heart.”
“If they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn't vote for me. I wouldn't vote for me if I believed Tara Reade,” Biden told Lawrence O’Donnell during an extended interview Thursday on MSNBC.
Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, said he didn’t remember Reade, who worked for him for less than a year in 1993, two decades into Biden’s 36-year Senate tenure. And while he again said that all women who come forward with accounts of abuse or harassment “should be taken seriously,” he also said it should “be thoroughly vetted,” and charged that Reade’s story “has changed as it's gone on.”
“But I don't want to question her motive,” he added. “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 people interviewed scores of my employees over my whole career. This is just totally, thoroughly, completely out of character and the idea that in a public place in a hallway, I would assault a woman? I promise you, it never happened,” Biden said.
Reade, who first spoke out in 2019 about what she said at the time was only inappropriate physical contact, broadened her claim this March to say Biden penetrated her with his fingers when she brought him a gym bag in spring 1993 in the halls of the Capitol complex.
In her first extended on-camera interview last week, Reade extensively detailed the encounter and called on Biden to be “held accountable.” Asked by Megyn Kelly what she would say to those who couldn’t believe her because no other similar allegations have been made, she replied: “I say I think I'm a poster child as to why a woman wouldn't come forward, aren't I?”
Biden’s new comments about Reade came during an hourlong, town hall-style event that included former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams, seen as a top contender to be his running mate.
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O’Donnell noted that it was Biden who had invited Abrams to join him for the interview, and asked if was an “audition” of sorts to be his potential vice president.
“Stacey Abrams has done more to deal with the fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody and she has a great, great capacity to explain things and the lay out exactly why it will be so critically important in this election,” Biden said, referring to the organization Abrams founded after losing the Georgia gubernatorial election in 2018 to help ensure Americans’ voting rights are protected.