Joe Biden denies sexual assault accusation

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denied on Friday that he sexually assaulted a former U.S. Senate aide in 1993, in his first public remarks on the subject after he faced intense pressure to personally address the accusation.

“No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened,” Biden told MSNBC in an interview when asked about the accusation, which his campaign had previously denied.

A California woman named Tara Reade, who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office from December 1992 to August 1993, had accused Biden in media interviews of pinning her against a wall in 1993, reaching under her skirt and pushing his fingers inside her.

Biden, 77, who will be the Democratic nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump, 73, in the Nov. 3 U.S. election, had faced growing pressure from within and outside his party to directly address the accusation.

“This is an open book. There’s nothing for me to hide,” Biden said in the interview, conducted from his home in Delaware where he is self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement before the interview, Biden called on the U.S. Senate to ask the National Archives to release any personnel records that could indicate whether the aide filed a complaint against Biden at the time.

In the interview Biden said personal papers from his Senate years, which were donated to the University of Delaware and have yet to be made available to the public, do not contain any personnel files.

He said he was unaware of any complaint against him by Reade, and he had never asked anyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement. He said he would not question Reade’s motive and did not know why she had made the complaint.

In the past Biden has suggested that women making accusations of sexual assault should be given the benefit of the doubt, and on Friday he said he was not being hypocritical by rejecting Reade’s charges.

“Women have a right to be heard and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I’ll always uphold that principle,” he said. “But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters.”

Reuters has not been able to independently confirm Reade’s accusation and also was unable to reach Reade or a representative for her comment.

“We appreciate Vice President Biden finally addressing Tara Reade’s allegations,” said Heather Drevna, the vice president of communications at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an anti-sexual violence organization. “These allegations deserve a rigorous investigation.”