Joe Biden on Friday gave his first public comments on a sexual assault allegation that has threatened to roil his presidential campaign, denying the incident occurred.
“This never happened,” said the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
The former U.S. vice-president was expected to further address the issue on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Former Senate staffer Tara Reade says Biden assaulted her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in the 1990s. His campaign issued a statement in early April denying the allegation, and a number of former Biden staffers have defended their boss in interviews.
Reade’s claims have taken on fresh attention this week after two of Reade’s associates said she previously told them about elements of her allegations.
“Two things are not complicated: One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced,” said Biden. “The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.”
Accuser has given multiple interviews
Reade publicly accused Biden of inappropriate touching last year, but did not allege sexual assault.
In recent weeks, she’s given a handful of interviews, saying Biden’s actions went further than she initially disclosed. In an interview with the AP, she detailed a 1993 encounter that she says occurred when she was asked by a supervisor to bring Biden his gym bag as he was on his way down to the Senate gymnasium.
She says Biden pushed her against a wall in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building, groped her and penetrated her with his fingers.
Reade said she filed a written report with a Senate personnel office. But she didn’t receive a copy of it and has been unable to obtain one since because, she said, Biden’s Senate files are currently at the University of Delaware, which has not yet made them public.
Biden said Friday those files he donated do not contain personnel matters, but said a “complaint of this kind” would most likely be at the National Archives.
“I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document,” he said. “If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”
Republicans accuse Democrats of hypocrisy
Republicans worried about President Donald Trump’s increasingly precarious political standing are seizing on the allegation to portray Democrats as hypocrites who only defend women who allege wrongdoing against conservatives.
They’ve pressed the issue even as Trump has been asked since the 2016 campaign to answer for the more than two dozen women who alleged varying levels of sexual assault and harassment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Thursday that Biden will “have to participate in releasing all the information related to” the allegation, a stance he didn’t take when Trump faced misconduct accusations.
Republicans argue Democrats aren’t being consistent, pointing to aggressive questioning and coverage of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he faced an allegation of sexual assault.