A former aide to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said this week that he sexually assaulted her in 1993, her most detailed account to date of his alleged inappropriate behavior.
Tara Reade, who was at the time serving as an aide in Biden’s senate office, told podcast host Katie Halper that Biden kissed her and penetrated her with his fingers without her consent. Reade said she pushed Biden off of her and he allegedly became annoyed and said: “Come on, man! I heard you liked me.”
“It was like everything shattered in that moment,” Reade told Halper in the interview, which was posted Wednesday. “He was, like, my father’s age. He was this champion of women’s rights in my eyes. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Reade alleges that after she pulled away from Biden, he pointed in her face and said, “You’re nothing to me.”
Last April, Reade was one of eight women to accuse the former vice president of inappropriate touching. Reade told the Intercept’s Ryan Grim this week that she only told the media part of her story at the time because she received an onslaught of harassment that instantly quieted her.
Biden, who later went on to be vice president before running for president himself, denied the allegation on Friday through his deputy campaign manager.
“Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims,” Kate Bedingfield said in a statement to HuffPost. “We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false.”
Reade alleged to Halper that she went through official channels to report sexual harassment in the office at the time, although she said she did not mention the alleged abuse in her complaint.
Marianne Baker, Biden’s executive assistant from 1982 to 2000, said in a statement provided by Biden’s campaign that she “never once” witnessed any inappropriate conduct or received any reports.
“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 in the statement.
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Last year, after she first accused Biden of inappropriate touching, Reade was accused of being politically motivated and called a Russian operative after a Medium post in which she praised Russia and its president Vladimir Putin resurfaced.
As the 2020 campaign for president continued, Reade had a change of heart about remaining silent, according to the Intercept. In January, she approached Time’s Up, the anti-sexual violence organization established in the wake of the Me Too movement, to help her. The Intercept reports that by February, Time’s Up told her they could not help because Biden was a candidate for federal office, and if they assisted her they could lose the organization’s nonprofit status.
“Our decision on whether or not to provide certain types of support to an individual should not be interpreted as our validation or doubt of the truthfulness of the person’s statements,” a spokeswoman for Time’s Up told the Intercept of their decision to not assist Reade. “Regardless, our support of workers who come forward regarding workplace sexual harassment remains unwavering.”
Reade’s allegation against Biden, and her experience with Time’s Up, was not initially front-page news as the coronavirus pandemic dominates news cycles. As the week went on, hashtags including #IBelieveTara, #UnendorseBiden and #TimesUpBiden started picking up steam.
Reade told Halper that the harassment she initially received after coming forward in April with allegations of inappropriate touching shows why many survivors of sexual violence don’t come forward.
“The thing that I remember most, almost more than the assault itself, was just being told I was nothing,” she said. “And he was right. That’s how people treated me ... I have no platform, I am no one and to him I’m nothing.”
“If people want to know why women don’t come forward, that’s a good example of why,” she added.
Reade told Vox News that she initially supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the presidential race, but now supports Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
President Donald Trump, who once bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” has been accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to assault and rape, by at least 21 women. The president regularly denies allegations of sexual and domestic abuse against him ― and his former staffers ― as “fake news.”
Listen to Halper’s full interview with Reade below.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Sanders’ party affiliation as Democratic.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.