Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, who has previously said that women leveling misconduct accusations should be presumptively believed, sat for another television interview Sunday — and again wasn’t asked about the recent accusation by former Senate staffer Tara Reade that the former vice president sexually assaulted her in 1993.
Speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Biden discussed everything from whether sanctions on Iran should be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic (“I would need more information to make that judgment,” Biden responded) to whether Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race (“I think it’s up to Bernie to make the judgment whether or not he should stay in the race or not stay in the race,” Biden said.)
Pressed by anchor Chuck Todd on Trump’s record-high approval ratings, Biden downplayed the news: “In every single crisis we have had … president’s ratings have always gone up.”
Biden went on to offer some advice to the president. “He should be focusing on making sure we are in a situation where we are able to see to it that unemployment benefits can get to people,” Biden said.
But Todd, like CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a virtual town hall on Friday, didn’t pose any questions to Biden concerning Reade, despite the former vice president’s previous stance on similar accusations. Both Cooper and Todd extensively covered the decades-old accusations against Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“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,” Biden said during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. He added that was true “whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
Instead of asking about the alleged sexual assault, Todd queried Biden as to whether Trump had “blood on his hands” over the coronavirus pandemic. (“I think that’s a little too harsh,” Biden responded.) For his part, Todd moderated a Democratic presidential debate weeks after the Trump administration closed off travel from China, and asked no questions about coronavirus.
“Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims. We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false,” Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to Fox News.
Reade has come forward before — last year, when multiple women emerged claiming inappropriate touching by Biden. Reade, at the time, claimed Biden put his hands on her shoulders and rubbed his fingers up and down her neck, but was unable to gain traction on her story aside from an article in a local newspaper.
But this week, Reade told a far more graphic account, with different and more serious details, raising the allegation to the level of sexual assault.
Reade’s story first resurfaced in an article in The Intercept. She then was interviewed by podcast host Katie Halper. There, Reade claimed that in 1993, she was asked by a more senior member of Biden’s staff to bring the then-senator his gym bag near the Capitol building, which led to the encounter in question.
“He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing,” Reade told Halper. “There was no like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
Reade said that she was wearing “a business skirt,” but “wasn’t wearing stockings — it was a hot day.”
She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”
Reade claimed Biden first asked if she wanted “to go somewhere else.”
“I pulled away, he got finished doing what he was doing,” Reade said. “He said: ‘Come on, man. I heard you liked me.’”
She said she felt that “everything shattered in that moment.” Reade went on to allege that Biden looked at her and said “you’re nothing to me.”
Reade said she attempted to share her story last year, but no one listened to her.
She added: “If people want to know why women don’t come forward, that’s a good example of why.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.