Biden accuser Tara Reade gives first on-camera interview, to Megyn Kelly

Evan Halper, Janet Hook
Tara Reade, shown in a recent photo, worked as a staff assistant in Joe Biden's Senate office in 1993, when she alleges Biden assaulted her.  (Max Whittaker / New York Times)

The woman who has accused Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her decades ago repeated her allegation on Thursday, in her first on-camera interview since the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee unequivocally denied her claim last week.

“I want to say, ‘You and I were there, Joe Biden,'” Tara Reade said in her interview with journalist Megyn Kelly, who released a portion of it on social media. “'Please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.'”

Reade's allegation remains a simmering political problem for Biden in the #MeToo era. Yet she offered no new corroboration in initial clips of her exchange with Kelly. Reade has struggled to reconcile inconsistencies in her story, and produced no records to substantiate her claim that she complained to Senate officials at the time.

Reade was a staffer in Biden's Senate office in 1993 when, she says, he cornered her in a basement hallway and inserted his fingers inside her. In her interview with Kelly, Reade said that Biden also explicitly propositioned her.

Reade denied that she was politically motivated in bringing forward her allegations. But she acknowledged she had reached out to the campaigns of two Biden rivals, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. She said she got no response.

Biden has adamantly denied Reade’s story, and no available records have emerged from the time substantiating Reade’s claims. Two people with whom Reade said she confided after the alleged incident have shifted their stories about what she told them.

As the interview clips were posted, however, a 1996 California Superior Court document surfaced that Reade's attorney argued bolsters her case. The filing, first reported by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, was a declaration by Reade’s then-husband, Theodore Dronen, contesting a restraining order she sought against him during their divorce proceedings. Dronen said Reade had described to him “a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office.”

The document does not accuse Biden specifically, nor does it make any mention of sexual assault during Reade’s time in the Senate job. Reade, who last year was one of several women who complained publicly that Biden had been inappropriately touchy, did not publicly accuse him of the assault until earlier this year, as he began winning Democratic nominating contests.

The accuser’s reemergence Thursday suggested that she plans to continue pursuing her allegation against the former vice president. Reade also retained as counsel the law firm of Wigdor LLP, which represented several of the women who accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.

“Her harrowing account is credible and supported by numerous 'outcry' witnesses from decades ago,” said a statement from attorney Douglas Wigdor. “We will help Ms. Reade be heard.”

Reade earlier canceled a television interview with Fox News planned to air last Sunday, citing concerns for her personal safety. During the Kelly interview, Reade talked about threats she said she had received after going public with her charge.

Republican efforts to use the Reade allegations against Biden are complicated by the substantially more extensive sexual assault allegations against President Trump. Also, Trump recently seemed to sympathize with Biden, saying they each had experience now with "false" allegations. He has been accused by more than a dozen women in incidents spanning many years, all of which he has denied.

Reade first publicly made her allegation against Biden in late March in an interview with a progressive-oriented podcaster. Major media organizations investigated her claims and did not find conclusive evidence to substantiate or refute them.

Biden disputes Reade’s claim that she complained about his behavior to her supervisor and senior staffers in his office. None of them have corroborated her story.

He also disputes that Reade filed any formal complaint to a Senate personnel office, which she said she did. Biden has asked Senate officials to search through archives and disclose any record of a complaint by Reade.

The secretary of the Senate told the Biden campaign that confidentiality laws would prevent disclosure of any such document. The Biden campaign says it is trying to work with Senate officials and Reade to waive the confidentiality rules if any complaint is found.

After Reade's interview with Kelly, Biden again denied her allegations in remarks to a Florida news outlet on Thursday. "Nothing ever happened with Tara Reade," he said. "The claims are flat-out false."