Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to address a recent allegation of sexual assault for the first time on Friday when he appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Against the backdrop of the #MeToo allegations, Tara Reade’s allegation that Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, inappropriately touched her in the early 1990s has gained traction in recent weeks. The Biden campaign has avoided public questioning about the allegations, instead referring reporters to a statement from Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director.
“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women,” Bedingfield said in the statement. “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.”
As Biden is set to break his silence, his campaign would not discuss the MSNBC interview. But the discussions about Reade, who was a staff assistant in Biden’s office while he was a senator from Delaware, have occupied the time of his top advisers, who have been discussing for days how to handle the matter — whether to continue to be quiet, or when and how to address the allegations.
“There’s no doubt this is going to come up, so the only question is when,” said one Democratic operative who has talked about Reade with senior advisers to the campaign.
The steady drumbeat of calls for Biden to address the charges personally — along with new reports from friends of Reade who say she told them years ago of the accusations — finally made the topic unavoidable.
When asked about the allegations on Thursday, President Donald Trump pushed Biden to respond to them publicly. But the president, who faces numerous accusations of sexual assault himself, cautiously avoided defending Reade and largely steered clear of the topic.
“I don‘t know anything about it,“ Trump said of the Reade allegation. “I think that he should respond. You know, it could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I have been falsely charged numerous times.“
Numerous media outlets, including POLITICO, asked to speak with Biden personally about the accusations, but “Morning Joe” was chosen by the campaign as a better forum for the candidate to address the topic.
As one of the voices of establishment Washington, the program is a perfect forum for a career-senator-turned-vice-president whose campaign advisers are longtime Democratic establishment figures. Also, according to those familiar with Biden’s thinking, the candidate has a friendly relationship with the host, Joe Scarborough.
The allegations have added a complication for those Biden might consider as a running mate, many of whom opposed the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 because of sexual-assault allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford and others. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one name that has been floated as a potential pick, said on Thursday that anyone who brought forward an allegation deserved “to be listened to.”
In a POLITICO Women Rule interview, Duckworth said that Biden has her support in November and pointed to his record of supporting women. But she said that the allegations needed to be investigated, and that the Biden campaign had to address them.
“I certainly think that we need to thoroughly look at these allegations,” Duckworth said. “It’s why I supported, you know, a real investigation into Dr. Ford’s allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. I know that quite a few number of news outlets that are doing investigative journalism, and I certainly support that moving forward. And I think that the Biden campaign should address this issue, and they have been.”
Marc Caputo, Anna Palmer and Matthew Choi contributed to this report.