Joe Biden offered his first detailed explanation of decades-old sexual assault allegations against him Friday, but Republicans are still hammering Democrats up and down the line over their hands-off approach to the charges.
First, here's the key part of Biden's statement addressing charges by Tara Reade that Biden harassed her and eventually digitally penetrated her in a Senate hallway in 1993. "I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago," Biden says in a statement. "They aren’t true. This never happened." He goes on to say that while "these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, 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. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny." News outlets, he said, "should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways." News organizations are doing that, but Republicans are hitting Democrats for a double-standard in how they insisted on believing Christine Blasey Ford's allegations that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her in high school. With the notable exception of House Democratic Conference Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), most prominent Democrats have stood with Biden, and have not called for an investigation such as they insisted upon during Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was bluntly critical Thursday of Speaker Nancy Pelosi for endorsing Biden recently without looking into the Reade allegations. "She’s being a hypocrite," McCarthy told reporters a day before Biden offered his defense. "Did anyone follow up with a question to the Speaker? 'When you went to endorse Joe Biden, did you first look at this?'" McCarthy said. "If she thinks his lack of response is a good enough response, then to me that means a hypocrite, based upon the past comments she made on other situations similar to this." McCarthy is just scratching the surface of what Republicans are doing, however.
President Trump's campaign also accused Biden of hypocrisy in a statement and brutal new digital ad.
"The only thing Joe Biden did today was dig himself a deeper hole," the statement said of Biden's defense. "He once again demonstrated that he believes he should be held to a different standard than he has set for others. During Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings, Biden made clear that all women should be believed when they come forward with allegations of sexual assault."
The National Republican Campaign Committee -- the GOP's House campaign arm -- has been hammering almost every Democrat running in a swing district. The NRCC was blasted out more than 50 specifically tailored challenges aimed at Democrats who stood by Blasey Ford, but have not weighed in on Reade. Just to pick New York as an example, the GOP has hit Reps. Max Rose, Sean Patrick Maloney, Antonio Delgado, and almost anyone running for open seats. Of Rose they said:
"Max Rose was beside himself with admiration for Dr. Ford’s 'strength' and outraged when there was no investigation into her claims against Brett Kavanaugh. "So where is Rose’s outrage at the deafening silence surrounding Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden (who Rose endorsed for president)? "Will Rose call for an investigation, including releasing Biden’s sealed Senate records?"
For Maloney, they said:
"Sean Patrick Maloney demanded we get to the bottom of Dr. Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. So does Sean believe we need to get to the bottom of Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden? Will Sean call for an investigation into Reade’s accusations, including releasing Biden’s sealed Senate files, before “any vote is taken” in November?
The NRCC releases also include tweets the lawmakers sent at the time supporting Blasey Ford. As Jeffries said in saying there should be an investigation, it is not entirely clear what mechanism could be used, credibly, to probe 27-year-old allegations against a candidate beyond what reporters are doing now. (The FBI does background checks on nominees, and was used for Kavanaugh. Candidates don't get background checks.) But it is clear that Republicans are going to beat the hypocrisy drum as long and loudly as they can. Here is Biden's entire statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 1, 2020 Statement by Vice President Joe Biden April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every year, at this time, we talk about awareness, prevention, and the importance of women feeling they can step forward, say something, and be heard. That belief – that women should be heard – was the underpinning of a law I wrote over 25 years ago. To this day, I am most proud of the Violence Against Women Act. So, each April we are reminded not only of how far we have come in dealing with sexual assault in this country – but how far we still have to go. When I wrote the bill, few wanted to talk about the issue. It was considered a private matter, a personal matter, a family matter. I didn’t see it that way. To me, freedom from fear, harm, and violence for women was a legal right, a civil right, and a human right. And I knew we had to change not only the law, but the culture. So, we held hours of hearings and heard from the most incredibly brave women – and we opened the eyes of the Senate and the nation – and passed the law. In the years that followed, I fought to continually strengthen the law. So, when we took office and President Obama asked me what I wanted, I told him I wanted oversight of the critical appointments in the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice and I wanted a senior White House Advisor appointing directly to me on the issue. Both of those things happened. As Vice President, we started the “It’s on Us” campaign on college campuses to send the message loud and clear that dating violence is violence – and against the law. We had to get men involved. They had to be part of the solution. That’s why I made a point of telling young men this was their problem too – they couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening around them – they had a responsibility to speak out. Silence is complicity. In the 26 years since the law passed, the culture and perceptions have changed but we’re not done yet. It’s on us, and it’s on me as someone who wants to lead this country. I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened. While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, 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. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny. Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways. But this much bears emphasizing. She has said she raised some of these issues with her supervisor and senior staffers from my office at the time. They – both men and a woman – have said, unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues. News organizations that have talked with literally dozens of former staffers have not found one – not one – who corroborated her allegations in any way. Indeed, many of them spoke to the culture of an office that would not have tolerated harassment in any way – as indeed I would not have. There is a clear, critical part of this story that can be verified. The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993. But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint. The papers from my Senate years that I donated to the University of Delaware do not contain personnel files. It is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record: speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills. There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be – the National Archives. The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. 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. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there. As a Presidential candidate, I’m accountable to the American people. We have lived long enough with a President who doesn’t think he is accountable to anyone, and takes responsibility for nothing. That’s not me. I believe being accountable means having the difficult conversations, even when they are uncomfortable. People need to hear the truth. I have spent my career learning from women the ways in which we as individuals and as policy makers need to step up to make their hard jobs easier, with equal pay, equal opportunity, and workplaces and homes free from violence and harassment. I know how critical women’s health issues and basic women’s rights are. That has been a constant through my career, and as President, that work will continue. And I will continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard. We have a lot of work to do. From confronting online harassment, abuse, and stalking, to ending the rape kit backlog, to addressing the deadly combination of guns and domestic violence. We need to protect and empower the most marginalized communities, including immigrant and indigenous women, trans women, and women of color. We need to make putting an end to gender-based violence in both the United States and around the world a top priority. I started my work over 25 years ago with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. As president, I’m committed to finishing the job.