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‘It never never happened’: Joe Biden denies sexual assault allegation

“Believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously when she steps forward,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said.

In this Feb. 29, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C.
Matt Rourke, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that an alleged sexual assault of a former Senate staffer “never happened.”

Addressing the alleged 1993 incident for the first time publicly, the former vice president denied the accusation during an intimate — and at times tense — 18 minute, one-one-one interview with “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.

“Did you sexually assault Tara Reade?” Brzezinski asked frankly after describing the graphic details of the accusation.

“No. It is not true. I’m saying unequivocally, it never never happened.”

Brzezinski — alone at the “Morning Joe” desk normally shared with co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist — then asked if Biden remembered Reade or if she ever made any complaints as a staffer. The former vice president said he didn’t remember any complaints, adding “nor does anyone else I’m aware of.”

The host pressed Biden, quoting a 2018 statement he made after Christine Blasey Ford came forward during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, accusing the judge of sexually assaulting her in college.

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’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time,” Brzezinski said, directly quoting Biden’s 2018 statement.

“To use your words,” Brzezinski asked, “should we not start off with the presumption that the essence of what she is talking about is real? She says you sexually assaulted her.”

Looking directly into the camera from his makeshift basement studio in Delaware, Biden responded. “Believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously when she steps forward,” he said. “And then vet it. Look into it.” He said women should be heard and claims of sexual assault should be investigated by the press.

“But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And in this case, the truth is, the claims are false,” Biden said.

He said there are no nondisclosure agreements that would prevent anyone from speaking out against him.

Reade accused the former Delaware senator of sexually assaulting her while she was a Senate staff assistant in 1993. She alleges that Biden “pinned her to a wall in a Senate building, reached under her clothing and penetrated her with his fingers,” according to her interview with The New York Times.

Friends of Reade told The New York times she told them of the incident at the time or over the intervening years, while interns who worked with Reade were unfamiliar with the alleged assault. Reade filed a report with the capital’s Metropolitan Police Department last month. The report does not name Biden, but Reade told The New York Times it is about him.

The former vice president has faced multiple allegations of inappropriately touching women.

In a statement released to Medium before the MSNBC interview early Friday morning, Biden said that he is seeking for any records of complaints made by Reade during his time as a senator, which would be stored in the National Archives, to be released.