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WASHINGTON – Several prominent Democratic women have voiced their support for former Vice President Joe Biden as he faces a sexual assault allegation by his former Senate staffer Tara Reade.
Reade says that Biden assaulted her when she worked for him in 1993. The Biden campaign has repeatedly denied the assault took place, and in an appearance Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Biden addressed the claim directly for the first time, also saying it never happened.
"This, never, ever happened," Biden said. "I don't know what is motivating her. ... But it's irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened. Period. "
While some have called on the presumptive Democratic nominee to drop out of the race for president, he's seen support from many leading party voices, including some of the women whose names have circulated as potential running mates.
Read the statement: Joe Biden's statement on Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation
Reade's allegation comes during the first presidential race since the rise of the #MeToo movement, which champions the importance of listening to women's stories. Biden and many of his allies have spoken out in strong support of women coming forward with credible allegations against powerful figures. In recent days Democrats backing Biden repeated that it's important that women have the chance to tell their stories.
"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," said Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield in a statement to the media.
Here's how some big names in the Democratic Party have responded to the allegation:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told reporters at the Capitol on Monday that she appreciates Biden taking "a lot of questions, tough questions, and that he answered them directly and respectfully” regarding Reade's allegation.
Warren, who endorsed Biden in April, said she thought Biden's "answers were credible and convincing.”
On Friday, Biden vehemently denied any allegation from Reade, and openly invited reporters to investigate, pointing to "responsible news organizations" that "should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both big and small ways."
Warren reiterated Monday, “I support the vice president, I support his campaign, and I’m proud to endorse him for president.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reiterated her support for Biden when pressed about the assault claim during a news conference on Thursday and said she was "satisfied" with how he has responded. She had officially announced her endorsement earlier in the week.
"The happiest day for me this week was to support Joe Biden for president of the United States," she said. "He's a person of great integrity, great concern for the American people."
'A person of great integrity': Nancy Pelosi defends Joe Biden over Tara Reade allegation
She said that "there was never any record" of the allegation. Reade says she brought up sexual harassment, rather than assault, in conversations with supervisors in Biden's office, and to a Senate personnel office. News investigations have not found a record of a complaint, and former employees of Biden's at the time say they don't recall any such conversation, The New York Times reported.
"So I want to remove all doubt in anyone's mind, I have great comfort level with the situation as I see it with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden," Pelosi said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who was an early contender for the Democratic nomination, said she supports Biden and doesn't see a contradiction in the way her party has reacted to Reade and how it reacted to allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, CNN reported.
"So when we say believe women, it's for this explicit intention of making sure there's space for all women to come forward to speak their truth, to be heard. And in this allegation, that is what Tara Reade has done," Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand also pointed to Biden's history of "supporting women" and said she stands by him.
"She has come forward, she has spoken, and they have done an investigation in several outlets. Those investigations, Vice President Biden has called for himself. Vice President Biden has vehemently denied these allegations and I support Vice President Biden."
Gillibrand was the first senator to call for the resignation of former Sen. Al Franken in 2017 after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., another former 2020 candidate and rumored vice presidential contender for the Biden ticket, said in a San Francisco Chronicle podcast interview that she can "only speak to the Joe Biden I know."
"The Joe Biden I know is somebody who really has fought for women and empowerment of women and for women’s equality and rights," she said.
Harris also said she would be "honored" to be Biden's running mate. The two battled during debates over Biden's record on race, but she's since thrown her support behind the former VP. She was also a vocal critic of Kavanaugh as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation proceedings because of the assault claims against him.
She told the Chronicle the current case raises "a bigger structural issue, frankly, which is that women must be able to speak without fear of retaliation."
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told CNN's Don Lemon that she believes Biden when asked about Reade's accusation. She has expressed her interest in becoming Biden's VP pick.
Abrams denied a double standard in her treatment of Biden's and Kavanaugh's allegations when Lemon pointed to a 2018 tweet saying it was "shameful" the justice's nomination was being rushed, and "I believe women, and I believe survivors of violence always deserve to be supported and to have their voices heard."
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"I believed then and I believe now that women deserve to be heard because too often they are not," Abrams said on CNN. "And Tara Reade deserved to have her story listened to and investigated."
Abrams pointed to the reporting done by The New York Times on Reade's case as supporting the Biden campaign's stance.
"They found that the accusation was not credible," Abrams said. "I believe Joe Biden."
The Times issued a statement in response to a BuzzFeed News report about Biden campaign talking points to refute the claim the outlet concluded the assault did not happen. The Times said its investigation "made no conclusion either way."
"I know Joe Biden and I think that he is telling the truth and that this did not happen," Abrams said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a potential pick for VP and former candidate for president, told NPR Biden is a "champion of abuses of power against women."
She also pointed to the Times' reporting, saying "I agree with Vice President Biden about this, that all women in these cases have the right to be heard and have their claims thoroughly reviewed. And in this case ... there was a thorough review by The New York Times. And I think that's very important to have, especially involving public figures."
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Asked if Democrats should be more focused on responding to the allegations, Klobuchar said the party is focused on holding people in power accountable.
"I think what we should all be focused on is stopping abuses of power, getting to the truth. And Vice President Biden has supported that work that I did and others did in the Senate to change the rules," she said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is a sexual assault survivor, stopped short of saying in an NPR interview how the allegations would affect her support for Biden. But in a separate part of the conversation, she said it was "flattering" to be part of conversations on running mate possibilities.
When asked earlier in April about Reade's accusations, Whitmer said it was "hard" to give her insight without knowing more details about the situation.
"Well, I think women should be able to tell their stories. I think that it is important that these allegations are vetted, from the media to beyond," Whitmer said. "And I think that, you know, it is something that no one takes lightly. But it is also something that is, you know, personal."
Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president until his campaign suspension and then said she'll vote for Biden as the nominee, also weighed in on the allegation in mid-April.
In an online conversation with The Wing reported by CBS News, Ocasio-Cortez said it was valid to talk about such issues. She pointed to Biden's "long history of being creepy to women," a nod to previous complaints that the former VP has engaged in overly physical displays of affection with women.
"I think it's legitimate to talk about these things. And if we want, if we again want to have integrity, you can't say, you know – both believe women, support all of this, until it inconveniences you, until it inconveniences us," she said.
Reade told CBS at the time that she was grateful for Ocasio-Cortez's statements because other politicians hadn't expressed support for her. But since then, Reade pointed out Ocasio-Cortez said she would vote for Biden to the Daily Caller and added, "She still had to toe the line."
Contributing: Savannah Behrmann
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pelosi, Democrats stand by Biden amid Tara Reade assault allegation