WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said Americans who believe Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations against him probably shouldn't vote for him in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The presumptive Democratic nominee also pushed back hard at the 27-year-old allegations, saying Reade's story has "changed considerably."
Biden made the comments while appearing on MSNBC's The Last Word. Host Lawrence O'Donnell asked what he would tell women who were eager to vote for him in November but now have pause because they believe Reade's allegations.
"I think they should vote their heart, and if they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn't vote for me. I wouldn't vote for me if I believed Tara Reade," Biden said.
Biden, who has denied the allegations, said he does not remember Reade and that inconsistencies in her account bolster his contention that he did not assault her .
"The fact is that, look at Tara Reade's story. It changes considerably," Biden said, giving a more direct defense than past interviews. "But I don't want to question her motive. I don't want to question anything other than to say, the truth matters."
Reade on March 25 alleged Biden pinned her against a wall in a Senate building when she was then a 29-year-old Senate staffer in 1993 for the then-Delaware U.S. senator. She said he reached under her clothes, groped her and digitally penetrated her without consent.
Last April, Reade said that during her time working for Biden, he touched her shoulders and ran his finger up and down her neck in ways that made her feel uncomfortable but in an interview with "The Union" newspaper, said she didn’t consider the acts toward her sexualization. She made no mention of an accusation of a sexual assault in a Senate hallway.
Reade said she filed a complaint against Biden with congressional personnel office but that it didn't explicitly mention sexual assault or harassment. The secretary of the Senate denied Vice President Joe Biden's request to release any record of a complaint from Reade, citing confidentiality rules.
Biden said his conduct toward women has been vetted, including through interviews of "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, a hallway, I would assault a woman? I mean, it's, anyway, I promise you, it never happened," Biden said.
In an interview last week with Megyn Kelley, Reade said the alleged incident "changed everything about my life" and said Biden should be "held accountable."
"I wish he would (withdraw from the race)," Reade said. "But he won't. But I wish he would. That's how I feel emotionally."
Reade has said she didn't make the allegations earlier because he didn't want the story to impact her then-teenage daughter, and because she liked Obama. She also said she didn't know how to come forward in a pre-MeToo era.
Reade has said she believes the complaint is stored with Biden's Senates papers at the University of Delaware, but the school has said it won't release the papers until two years after Biden retires from public life. Biden hasn't asked the university to release the records, which he said includes papers such as speeches, policy proposals, position statements and the writing of bills, not personnel documents
Biden's appearance on MSNBC was billed as a "town hall" with Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House Minority Leader and onetime gubernatorial candidate who is now among the possible vice presidential picks the Biden campaign is considering.
Joe Biden, asked whether having Stacey Abrams on TV with him is an audition for her being the VP nominee, touts her record working to protect voter rights.— Joey Garrison (@joeygarrison) May 15, 2020
"Stacey knows what she's doing and she's an incredibly capable person." pic.twitter.com/h3Mqesf2P1
The lengthy side-by-side appearance, which included submitted questions to both from viewers, provided an opportunity to see how they would play out on camera and test their chemistry.
O'Donnell said it was Biden who invited Abrams onto the show. But Biden did not say whether it was audition to be his running mate. He instead touted Abrams' record working to protect voter rights through Fair Fight, the advocacy group that Abrams leads.
"Stacey knows what she's doing and she's an incredibly capable person," Biden said.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden: Women who believe Tara Reade probably shouldn't vote for me