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Tara Reade and Joe Biden's sexual assault and harassment - the story no end yet

May 08, 2020 | 11:49

Tara Reade has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault and harassment when she was one of his Senate staffers in 1993, and called on him to drop out of 2020 race – as it happened on May 7 2020.

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May 7, 2020: In her first on-camera interview, Tara Reade called on the former vice president to drop out of the 2020 presidential race on and said she would take a polygraph “if Joe Biden takes one.”

tara reade and joe biden

A woman who accuses Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her 27 years ago has called on him to quit the presidential race.

In an interview, Tara Reade urged Mr Biden to "please step forward and be held accountable".

She added: "You should not be running on character for the president of the United States."

Mr Biden, who is set to challenge President Donald Trump in November, has denied Ms Reade's accusation, informed the BBC.

A 1996 court document obtained by The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, California indicates former Senate staffer Tara Reade told her ex-husband she was sexually harassed while working for Joe Biden in 1993. The document comes from Reade’s then-husband Theodore Dronen, who at the time was contesting a restraining order Reade had filed against him days after he filed for divorce.

She did not specifically accuse Biden of the harassment, according to the document, nor did she make any mention of sexual assault.

tara reade and joe biden
Biden denies former staffer's sexual assault allegation 'This never happened'

Drone wrote that Reade told him of “a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office.”

The filing marks the only known written record corroborating Reade’s account of sexual harassment by Biden.

According to the document, Reade told Dronen she had “eventually struck a deal with the chief of staff of the Senator’s office and left her position.”

“It was obvious that this event had a very traumatic effect on (Reade), and that she is still sensitive and effected (sic) by it today,” Dronen wrote.

What did Tara Reade say about the alleged assault?

Ms Reade, now 56, worked as a staff assistant to Mr Biden from 1992-93 when he was a senator for the US state of Delaware.

She has said that in 1993 he forced her against a wall and put his hands under her shirt and skirt, penetrating her with a finger, after she delivered him his gym bag.

tara reade and joe biden
Tara Reade and former US Vice President Joe Biden Tara Reade/Twitter; Saul Loeb—AFP via Getty Images

In her most graphic, detailed account yet of the alleged assault, Ms Reade told US media personality Megyn Kelly that Mr Biden kissed her neck and told her he wanted to have sex with her, using an obscene term.

"So, he had one hand underneath my shirt, and the other had, I had a skirt on, and he went down my skirt and then went up and I remember I was up almost on my tippy toes," she said.

"When he went inside the skirt, he was talking to me at the same time, and he was leaning into me and I pulled this way away from his head."

When she refused his advances, she said: "He looked at me and said, 'What the hell, man, I heard you liked me'."

She added: "He pointed his finger at me and he said 'You're nothing to me. You're nothing'."

What else did she say?

Ms Reade was asked by Kelly if she wanted Mr Biden to withdraw from the race.

"I wish he would, but he won't, but I wish he would," she said. "That's how I feel emotionally."

Ms Reade offered to take a lie detector test about her claim, on condition that Mr Biden do so also.

"I will take one if Joe Biden takes one," she said.

Ms Reade said she had received a death threat after Biden supporters accused her without evidence of being a Russian agent.

"His surrogates have been saying really horrible things about me and to me on social media," she continued.

tara reade and joe biden

1996 court doc shows Tara Reade's ex-husband knew about 'sexual harassment' while she worked for Biden: report (Photo: foxnews)

Former neighbor's story

Lynda LaCasse told CNN in a phone interview that Reade, her former neighbor, told her about the alleged sexual assault within a few years of the incident.

LaCasse said it was 1995, perhaps even early 1996, based on her recollection. LaCasse said she often sat outside on her stoop smoking Virginia Slims, and that on this particular day, she cried as she discussed with Reade a custody battle for her kids. Reade began to cry too, LaCasse said.

"She started talking about Joe Biden. And I didn't really know much about Joe Biden," she said. LaCasse said that Reade told her that when she was working in Washington some years prior, Biden "had pushed her up against a wall and he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside of her, and she was dealing with the aftermath of that."

CNN verified through public records searches, photos and an examination of Reade's past government identification that LaCasse and Reade were once neighbors.

Friend's story

A friend of Reade's, who asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her privacy, told CNN that Reade told her on multiple occasions while she was working in Biden's Senate office about physical interactions with the then-senator that had made her feel uncomfortable.

The friend told CNN that she and Reade became close in the early 1990s when she spent multiple semesters interning in Washington, DC, to receive college credits. One of her internships was with the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In 1993, when the friend was back in school, she received a phone call from Reade. Reade told her in detail that she had been sexually assaulted by Biden on Capitol Hill. The friend said she believes Reade called her within days of the alleged assault. The friend said she advised Reade against filing a police report at the time.

Reade's brother's story

The Washington Post interviewed Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, who told the paper that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had behaved inappropriately by touching her neck and shoulders but not about the alleged sexual assault. Several days after that interview with Reade's brother, the Post said, "he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand 'under her clothes.'"

Moulton later told CNN that Reade told him in the early 1990s that she had been asked to bring Biden his gym bag, and that in a private setting, he had cornered her against the wall and put his hands under her clothes.

How did Biden's campaign respond?

Biden campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement after the interview aired that Ms Reade's story contained "inconsistencies".

"Women must receive the benefit of the doubt," said the statement. "They must be able to come forward and share their stories without fear of retribution or harm - and we all have a responsibility to ensure that.

"At the same time, we can never sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that these allegations are false and that the material that has been presented to back them up, under scrutiny, keeps proving their falsity."

Mr Biden, who is the Democratic party's presumptive presidential nominee, broke his silence on the matter a week ago, appearing on a morning television show to brand the allegations "false".

tara reade and joe biden
Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP

What other latest developments are there?

A court document from 1996 shows Ms Reade's ex-husband describing "a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in US Senator Joe Biden's office", according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune .

"It was obvious that this event had a very traumatic effect on [Reade], and that she is still sensitive and effected [sic] by it today," wrote Theodore Dronen, her then-husband, in a legal memo during their divorce battle.

The file obtained by the California newspaper appears to be the only document from the time that might describe Ms Reade's allegation.

tara reade and joe biden
Tara Reade is speaking out on-camera for the first time since she came forward with her allegation that former Vice President Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, saying she wishes Biden would drop out of the presidential race

Ms Reade's brother, a former neighbour and a former colleague have all said they heard her describe the accusation against her boss after the alleged incident. And her mother appears to have called a CNN show about the claim back in 1993.

High-powered Manhattan lawyer Douglas Wigdor said in a statement that he is representing Ms Reade. He has represented alleged sexual assault victims of jailed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Could the allegations hurt Biden?

Some Republicans are seizing on the Reade accusation to portray Democrats as hypocrites who only defend women when claims of wrongdoing are aimed at conservatives.

Mr Trump himself has faced a barrage of sexual misconduct allegations, which he also denies. He once boasted of grabbing women by the genitals.

However, the Democrats have much more strongly championed the #MeToo movement, which backs women who make accusations of sexual assault and calls for their stories to be heard.

Women are a core constituency for the party, traditionally giving more votes to Democratic candidates than Republicans.

Some liberal women have said they believe Tara Reade but will vote for Mr Biden anyway because they view Mr Trump as much worse.

November's presidential election will be the first of the #MeToo era, and Mr Biden has framed it as a "battle for the soul of America".

In a statement to the New York Times NYT, Kate Bedingfield, a deputy Biden campaign manager, said the allegations were “untrue” and “absolutely did not happen”: “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.”

Biden’s campaign also released a statement from Baker, Biden’s executive assistant from 1982 to 2000 and who Reade mentioned she notified of the incident in 1993. “In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received any reports of inappropriate conduct, period—not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone,” Baker said. “I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager. These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”

Key background

Last year, as Biden began planning a run for president, eight women came forward to allege sexual harassment by the former vice president in the form of unwanted kissing, hugging and touching during his decades in government. The first, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman, alleged Biden had touched and kissed her inappropriately at a 2014 campaign event in an essay in New York Magazine. Biden responded directly to the allegations, saying he felt he had never acted “inappropriately,” and that he would “listen respectfully” to those who felt otherwise. But critics later denounced Biden for joking about some of the complaints and not apologizing directly. The allegations levied against Biden emerged amid the backdrop of the #MeToo era, which began in 2017 and has led to countless victims of sexual assault and harrassment coming forward to accuse powerful people of misconduct. Several high-profile politicians have stepped down due to allegations of sexual misconduct since the movement began, including former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Senator Al Franken and President Trump’s former staff secretary Rob Porter. Trump has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including forced kissing, groping, or assault, and the allegations levied against him are far more severe than those directed at Biden. In a 2005 recording that was unearthed weeks before the 2016 election, Trump openly bragged about forcing himself onto women and said he would “grab them by the pussy.”

Surprising fact

In the Larry King clip, the woman Reade identified as her mother, Jeanette Altimus, called in from San Luis Obispo, California. CNN was able to verify that Altimus lived in San Luis Obispo around the time of the interview.

Tangent

Reade says she reached out to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting victims of sexual harassment, to see if she could get legal representation but was rebuffed. In a statement to Vox, the organization said it did try to help Reade and gave her a list of lawyers with expertise in the area. Time’s Up does not represent clients, as the New York Times reported. According to The Intercept, the organization told Reade they could not represent her because Biden is a candidate for federal office and they could lose their status as a nonprofit.

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