Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden denied allegations from former Senate staffer Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s during an appearance Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"They aren’t true. This never happened," Biden said about Reade's accusation.
Host Mika Brzezinski pushed Biden to unseal his Senate records stored at the University of Delaware, asking: "Are you certain there was nothing about Tara Reade in those records?"
"I am absolutely certain," Biden said.
"If so, why not approve a search of her name in those records?" she asked.
Biden said old positions he has taken could be "fodder for his campaign."
Mika Brzezinski: OK, let’s bring in the apparent Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming on the show this morning. We have —
Joseph R. Biden Jr.: Happy to be with you.
MB: — a lot we want to ask you this morning. Joe and Willy will join for questions in just a minute on how you would handle this pandemic, the campaign and other news of the day, but at the start, it’s just going to be you and me, and I want to get right to the allegation made against you by Tara Reade.
So, the former Senate aide accuses you of sexual assault. And please, to our viewers, please excuse the graphic nature of this, but I want to make sure that there is no question as to what we’re talking about. She says in 1993, Mr. Vice President, that you pinned her against the wall and reached under her clothing and penetrated her with your fingers. Would you please go on the record with the American people? Did you sexually assault Tara Reade?
JB: No, it is not true. I am saying unequivocally it never, never happened, and it didn’t. It never happened.
MB: Do you remember her? Do you remember any — any types of complaints that she might have made?
JB: I don’t remember any type of complaint she may have made. It was 27 years ago, and I don’t remember, nor does anyone else that I’m aware of, and the fact is that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any complaint ever having been made.
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MB: Have you or your campaign — have you reached out to her?
JB: No, I have not reached out to her. It’s 27 years ago. This never happened, and when she first made the claim, we made it clear that it never happened, and that’s — it’s as simple as that.
MB: In the past 30 minutes or so, you released a statement on Medium, and among other things, you write this: “There’s only one place a complaint of this kind could be: the National Archives. I am requesting that the secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed. If there was any such complaint, the record will be there.”
Are you preparing us for a complaint that might be revealed in some way? Are you confident there is nothing?
JB: I’m confident there’s nothing. No one ever brought it to the attention of me 27 years ago. This is — any assertion at all. No one that I’m aware of in my campaign, actually my Senate office at the time, is aware of any such request or any such complaint, and so I’m not worried about it at all. If there is a complaint, that’s where it would be. That’s where it would be filed, and if it’s there, put it out. But I’ve never seen it. No one has that I’m aware of.
MB: The New York Times has investigated this exhaustively. They didn’t find any of your former staff members who were able to corroborate the details of this allegation. She did file a police report a few weeks ago with the D.C. police. But since you want to set the record straight, why limit this only to Tara Reade? Why not release any complaints that had been made against you during your Senate career?
JB: I’m prepared to do that. To the best of my knowledge, there’s been no complaints made against me in terms of my Senate career, in terms of my office. Look, this is an open book. There’s nothing for me to hide. Nothing at all.
MB: You were unequivocal, Mr. Vice President, back in 2018 during the Kavanaugh controversy and hearings, and you said that women should be believed. You said this: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she is talking about is real, whether or not she forgets the facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
She’s going to be going on national television on Sunday. Tara Reade is coming forward in the glaring lights, to use your words. Should we not start off with the presumption that the essence of what she’s talking about is real? She says you sexually assaulted her.
JB: Look, from the very beginning, I’ve said believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously when she steps forward, and then vet it. Look into it. That’s true in this case as well. Women have a right to be heard, and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I’ll always uphold that principle. But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And in this case, the truth is the claims are false.
MB: Is it possible these claims are held in an N.D.A.? Do you have any N.D.A.s that have been signed by women who were employed by you?
JB: There is no N.D.A. signed, and no one’s ever signed — I’ve never asked anybody to sign an N.D.A. There are no N.D.A.s, period, in my case. None.
MB: Your Senate documents at the University of Delaware were supposed to go public, and then they were resealed. The access was changed. I know you are saying any H.R. complaints could be in the National Archives, but why not reveal your Senate documents that are being held in Delaware? I know there’s 1,800-plus boxes. But if she believes and she alleges that the complaints may be hidden there, why not strive for complete transparency? Why was the access to those documents sealed up when they were supposed to be revealed?
JB: Well, they weren’t supposed to be revealed. I gave them to the university, and the university said it’s going to take them time to go through all the boxes. They said that wouldn’t be before 2020 that that occurred, or 2021, I can’t remember the year they said.
But look, a record like this can only be one place. It would not be at the University of Delaware. My archives do not contain personal files. My archives contain documents — and when I say personal, personnel files. They don’t contain any personnel files. They are public records, my speeches, my papers, my position papers. And if that document exists, it would be stored in the National Archives, where documents from the office she claims to have filed her complaint with are stored. That’s where they are stored. The Senate controls those archives, so I’m asking the secretary of the Senate today to identify whether any such document exists. If it does, make it public.
MB: Right, but there are claims and concerns and reports in Business Insider, and she claims that possibly a complaint or some sort of record of this might be at the University of Delaware. So for complete transparency, why not push for the release of any documents with Tara Reade’s name on them, whether it’s at the University of Delaware or the National Archives?
JB: First of all, let’s get this straight. There are no personnel documents. You can’t do that — you wouldn’t — for example, if you worked with mayor, I worked for you, and you had my income tax returns, you had my whatever — they’re private documents. They’re not for — they don’t get put out in the public. They’re not part of the public record that in fact, that any senator or vice president or president has in their documents. Look, there was one place that she could file the complaint, and that office at the time was — all those records from that office are in the Archives, and they’re controlled by the Senate. That’s where personnel documents would be if they exist. That’s where the complaint would be if it exists.
MB: Given the fact that you have said in the past that if a woman goes under the lights and talks about something like this, we have to consider that the essence of this is real, is the essence of what she is saying real? Why do you think she is doing this?
JB: I’m not going to question her motive. I’m not going to get into that at all. I don’t know why she’s saying this. I don’t know why after 27 years all of a sudden this gets raised. I don’t understand it. But I’m not going to go in and question her motive. I’m not going to attack her. She has a right to say whatever she wants to say. But I have a right to say look at the facts, check it out, find out whether any of it — what she says is asserted or true. And based on the investigations that have taken place so far, to the best of my knowledge, by two major papers, they interviewed dozens of my staff members, not just senior staff but staff members, I’m told. At least that’s what they said, and nobody — this was not the atmosphere in my office at all. No one has ever said anything like this.
MB: But Mr. Vice President, as it pertained to Dr. Ford, everyone wanted — high-level Democrats said she should be believed, that they believed it happened. You said if someone like Dr. Ford were to come out, the essence of what she is saying has to be believed, has to be real. Why, why, why, why is it real for Dr. Ford but not for Tara Reade?
JB: Because the facts are, look. She — I’m not suggesting she had no right to come forward, and I never — I’m not saying — any woman, they should come forward and they should be heard, and then it should be investigated. It should be investigated. And if there’s anything that makes it — that is consistent with what’s being said, and she makes the case or the case is made, then it should be believed. But ultimately, the truth matters. The truth matters. Period.
I fought my entire life to change, to change the whole notion of the law and the cultural, sexual — the culture around sexual assault, and I fought to strengthen the protective process for survivors. I believe that we’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go in this system before we in fact are in a position that there’s a fair and unbiased view, but at the end of the day, it has to be looked at. These claims are not true. There’s no corrob— I mean, they’re not true. I don’t know what else I can say to you.
MB: Well, I’m going to try and ask many different ways. Stacey Abrams said during the Kavanaugh hearings: “I believe women. I believe survivors of assault should be supported and their voices heard.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted: “Do we believe women? Do we give them the opportunity to tell their story? We must be a country that says yes every time.” They now both support you. Nancy Pelosi falls into this category too, as well as many other leaders in the Democratic Party. Are women to be believed — are women to believed unless it pertains to you?
JB: Look, women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt. If they come forward and say something that is, that they said happened to them, they should start off with the presumption they’re telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts in this case do not exist. They never happened, and there’s so many inconsistencies in what has been said in this case. So yes, look at the facts, and I assure you it did not happen. Period. Period.
MB: But why is it different now? Do you regret what you said during the Kavanaugh hearings?
JB: What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was that she had a right to be heard, and the fact that she came forward, the presumption would be that she’s telling the truth, unless it’s proved that she wasn’t telling the truth, or not proved — unless it’s clear from the facts surrounding it it’s not the truth. Look, this is a very — I’m sorry.
MB: Go ahead.
JB: No, no, that’s all.
MB: As we wait for the records from the National Archives, are you absolutely certain, are you absolutely positive there is no record of any complaint by Tara Reade against you?
JB: I am absolutely positive that no one that I’m aware of ever has been made aware of any complaint, a formal complaint, made by — or a complaint by Tara Reade against me at the time this allegedly happened 27 years ago, or until I announced for pres— well, I guess it was in April or May of this year. I know of no one who’s aware that any complaint was made.
MB: I’ve got two more questions.
JB: Nor has there —
MB: The first —
JB: — OK, please.
MB: Go ahead. The first is about your University of Delaware records. Do you agree with the reporting that those records were supposed to be revealed to the public, and then they were resealed for a longer period of time, until you leave, quote, public life? And if you agree with that, if that’s what happened, why did that happen?
JB: Because look, the fact is that there’s a lot of things, of speeches I’ve made, positions I’ve taken, interviews that I did overseas with people, all of those things relating to my job, and the idea that they would all be made public in the fact while I was running for public office, they could be really taken out of context. They’re papers or position papers, they are documents that existed and that — when I met, for example, when I met with Putin or when I met with whomever, and all of that could be fodder in a campaign at this time. I don’t know of anybody who’s done anything like that. And so the National Archives is the only place there would be anything having to do with personnel records. There are no personnel records in the Biden papers at the university.
MB: So, personnel records aside, are you certain there was nothing about Tara Reade in those records, and if so —
JB: I am absolutely certain.
MB: — why not approve a search of her name in those records?
JB: Approve a search of her name?
MB: Yes, and reveal anything that might be related to Tara Reade in the University of Delaware records.
JB: There is nothing. They’re not there. I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make.
MB: The point I’m trying to make —
JB: There are no personnel records by definition.
MB: The point I’m trying to make is you are approving, and actually calling for a search of the National Archives records of anything pertaining to Tara Reade. I’m asking, why not do the same in the University of Delaware records, which have raised questions because they were supposed to be revealed to the public and then they were sealed for a longer period of time. Why not do it for both sets of records?
JB: Because the material in the University of Delaware has no personnel files. It has — but it does have a lot of confidential conversations that I had with the president about a particular issue, that I had with the heads of state of other places, that — that would not be something that would be revealed while I was in public office or while I was seeking public office. It just stands to reason. To the best of my knowledge, no one else has done that either.
MB: I’m just talking about her name, not anybody else in those records — a search for that. Nothing classified with the president or anybody else. I’m just asking, why not do a search for Tara Reade’s name in the University of Delaware records?
JB: Look, I mean, who does that search?
MB: The University of Delaware. Perhaps you set up a commission that can do it. I don’t know, whatever is the fairest way to create the most transparency.
JB: Well, this is — look, Mika. She said she filed a report. She has her employment records still. She said she filed a report with the only office that would have a report in the United States Senate at the time. If the report was ever filed, it was filed there, period.
MB: If you could speak directly to Tara Reade about her claims or anything, what would you say?
JB: I would — this never, ever happened. I don’t know what is motivating her. I don’t know what — I don’t know what’s behind any of it. But it’s irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened, period. I’m not going to start questioning her, her motive. I’m not going to get into that. I’m not going to start — I’m not going to go after Tara Reade for saying these things. It’s simple: What are the facts? Do any of the things she’s said, do they add up? It never happened.
MB: Mr. Vice President, stay with us. We’re going to take a one-minute break, and then Joe and Willy will join with questions on other news of the day.