Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, despite accusations from women that the former vice president has kissed or touched them inappropriately throughout his career.
While none of these women previously alleged sexual assault, a woman named Tara Reade come forward last month on The Katie Halper Show podcast and accused Biden of digitally penetrating her in 1993. At the time, Reade was a staff assistant to Biden while he was working in the United States Senate.
Here’s what we know so far.
What Reade has said about Biden:
Last year, Reade accused Biden of making her feel uncomfortable, saying he would stroke her neck and touch her hair during the time she worked for him. The California-based newspaper The Union reported in April 2019 that Reade said Biden would “put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck.” She also told the paper that she lost job responsibilities after she declined to serve drinks at an event, which she says she was asked to do because Biden liked her legs. The Union confirmed with “a confidante of Reade’s at the time” that Reade shared the story shortly after it happened.
Reade then went public with her sexual assault accusation in March 2020 on the podcast The Katie Halper Show. She has said she waited to share her account due to the criticism and threats she received after speaking out in 2019. Reade also told Salon that she considered sharing the full story with The Union but felt shut down by the “way he asked the questions.”
During the podcast interview, Reade said that Biden was “handsy with a lot of people” and that his actions made her feel like “an inanimate object.” In terms of the alleged assault, Reade shared on the podcast that she was once instructed to give Biden his athletic bag. “The gym bag, I don’t know where it went,” she said. “I handed it to him. It was gone and then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. And then he went down my skirt, but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers. And he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying something to me.”
She recalled him saying, “Do you want to go somewhere else?” As she pulled away, she says Biden said, “Come on man, I heard you liked me,” and before he left, grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “You’re okay. You’re fine.”
After the incident, Reade says her mother, who has since passed away, wanted her to file a police report. Reade did not file a report at the time, but says she raised concerns with numerous staff members in Biden’s office about the harassment, though she did not mention the assault. When they did not take action, Reade says she filed a written complaint with a Senate personnel office, although the New York Times was unable to locate the complaint. Afterwards, Reade says most of her office responsibilities were taken away from her, and she was eventually told to find another job. (Those staff members have since told the Times they do not remember Reade reporting an incident of harassment.) Two former interns that Reade managed in the Senate office told the Times that she “abruptly stopped supervising them in April, before the end of their internship.”
This April, Reade filed a report with the Washington D.C. police stating she was sexually assaulted back in 1993. The report does not refer to Biden by name, but Reade told the Times that the report concerns her allegation of assault by Biden.
Throughout the Times‘ investigation, the paper reports it found no patten of sexual misconduct by Biden and that no other allegation of sexual assault came up during reporting. While the Times reports that Reade voted for Senator Bernie Sanders in the California presidential primary, Reade has said her decision to go public has nothing to do with the election.
How Biden has responded:
Kate Bedingfield, a deputy Biden campaign manager, said in a statement: “Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard—and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”
On May 1st, Biden addressed the allegations on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, saying, “It is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.” He also said he does not remember a complaint being made against him. When asked if people should start with the presumption that women who come forward about sexual assault are telling the truth, a statement Biden has made in the past, the former vice president said: “From the very beginning I’ve said believing women means taking the woman’s claims seriously when she steps forward. And then vetted, look into it. That’s true in this case as well. Women have a right to be heard, and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I’ll always uphold that principle, but in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And in this case, the truth is the claims are false.”
Biden also released a longer statement on his Medium page in which he called for the Secretary of the Senate to ask the National Archives to “identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document.”
How Reade’s friends and family have responded:
The Times has since interviewed Reade, and the paper reports that a friend of Reade’s said she told her about the alleged assault at the time. Reade’s brother and another friend also said she had told them about “a traumatic sexual incident” with Biden.
One of Reade’s former neighbors named Lynda LaCasse told Business Insider that Reade described the alleged assault to her back in 1995 or 1996. LaCasse said, “I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him. And he kind of put her up against a wall. And he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her. She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn’t feel there was anything she could do.” Insider reported that LaCasse is a Biden supporter.
A former colleague of Reade’s named Lorraine Sanchez also told Insider that Reade once spoke about being sexually harassed in the mid-1990s. Sanchez said, “[Reade said] she had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in D.C., and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.”
The Intercept also recently reported that Reade told the outlet her mother had called in to “Larry King Live” on CNN and referenced Reade’s experience in D.C. after she left Biden’s staff.
A call that matches Reade’s description was found, dated August 11, 1993, from when King aired a program “Washington: The Cruelest City on Earth?” The caller is not named, but King says she is dialing in from San Luis Obispo, California. (According to The Intercept, property records show that Reade’s mother lived in San Luis Obispo County at the time.)
In the video, the caller says: “I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.” Reade has since said it is her mother’s voice in the video.
ELLE.com will continue to update this post.