Over the last week, new reporting has provided corroborating evidence for a decades-old allegation of sexual assault against former Vice President Joe Biden, a charge that has been denied by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign.
Timeline of the allegations
In March, former Biden congressional staffer Tara Reade told podcaster Katie Halper that in the spring or summer of 1993 that the then senator from Delaware had cornered her in a private hallway when she was delivering a duffel bag. Reade alleges that Biden began kissing her, propositioned and reached under her skirt and began touching her.
The Biden campaign has denied the allegations.
“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s communications director, said in a statement to the New York Times earlier this month. “He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”
The Associated Press contacted 21 former Biden staffers, none of whom said they remembered any complaints filed by Reade, who was a 29-year-old staff assistant at the time. Reade said that after complaining, her duties were scaled back and she was eventually told she wasn’t a good fit before being given a month to find another job. Reade said that she filed a written complaint at the time with a Senate personnel office, which could be with the rest of Biden’s senatorial papers at the University of Delaware. The university has said that an archive related to the former vice president “will remain closed to the public until two years after Mr. Biden retires from public life.”
Last year, Reade said in multiple interviews that Biden had touched her shoulders and played with her hair but did not mention assault.
On Monday, Business Insider published a story from veteran investigative reporter Rich McHugh that included an on-the-record interview with two women who said that Reade had told them about the incident in the mid-’90s.
“I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him,” Lynda LaCasse, Reade’s former neighbor, said. “And he kind of put her up against a wall. And he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her. She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn’t feel there was anything she could do.”
“I don’t remember all the details,” added LaCasse, who said she was a Democrat who still supported Biden. “I remember the skirt. I remember the fingers. I remember she was devastated.”
Another woman, Lorraine Sanchez, told McHugh that she recalled Reade complaining to her in the mid-’90s that her former boss in Washington, D.C., had sexually harassed her and that she had been fired for raising concerns. Sanchez and Reade worked together in the office of a California state senator.
In March 2019, former Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores alleged that Biden had kissed and touched her inappropriately in 2014. In response to Flores’s allegation, Biden said it “was never my intention” to make Flores or another woman feel uncomfortable.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately,” he said in the statement. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
He added that he did not recall the alleged interaction with Flores, but said, “We have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences.”
Shortly after those allegations were made, a half dozen other women spoke up to say that Biden had made remarks or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, although none alleged assault. One was Reade, who told a local California newspaper that Biden had inappropriately touched her and made her uncomfortable. She did not raise an accusation of assault. In 2019 interviews with the Washington Post, Reade said that Biden “touched her neck and shoulders but did not mention the alleged assault or suggest there was more to the story.”
On April 9, Reade filed a report with the Washington, D.C., police accusing Biden of sexual assault. She said she did not mention the assault at the time because she was scared of retribution, and though she twice voted for the Obama-Biden presidential ticket, she said she doesn’t plan to cast a vote for president in November. Reade has had her credibility questioned due to positive comments she wrote about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an April 12 story on the allegations, the New York Times talked to a number of staffers who said they had not heard of the incident and said it was out of character for Biden. However, two former interns told the Times that they “recalled that she abruptly stopped supervising them in April, before the end of their internship,” which echoes Reade’s claim that her duties were scaled back.
The mother’s call
Last week, the Intercept published an August 11, 1993, call to Larry King’s CNN show. Although not identified at the time, the caller was Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, who Reade says she told about the alleged assault at the time it occurred.
“I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington?” said the caller, who was identified as a woman living in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where Altimus resided at the time. “My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.”
King replied, “In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?”
“That’s true,” said the caller.
Congressional records list Reade’s last month of employment as August 1993.