New Information Emerges Around Biden Sexual Assault Allegation

Apr 29, 2020
Originally published on April 30, 2020 2:28 pm

Editor's note: This story contains graphic descriptions of an alleged sexual assault.

Updated at 12:56 p.m. ET

New information has emerged in recent days about a sexual assault allegation against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, made by Tara Reade, a former staff assistant in Biden's Senate office. For the first time, someone has gone on the record to say that Reade detailed the allegation to her decades ago in the same way Reade is describing it now.

The revelation, first reported by Business Insider, comes with increasing calls from Republicans for the accusation to be examined more openly and pressure on Democrats to respond. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who endorsed Biden on Monday, expressed on Thursday that she has a "great comfort-level with the situation."

A former neighbor of Reade's named Lynda LaCasse told NPR on Wednesday about a conversation the two had approximately 25 years ago regarding the alleged assault.

LaCasse said she remembers stepping outside her home in California to sneak a cigarette away from her kids sometime in 1995 or early 1996, when she was joined by Reade on her front stoop. They were emotional, discussing custody issues and violence, and she recalls Reade then mentioning Biden, a man LaCasse was not particularly familiar with at the time.

"I do remember her telling me that Joe Biden had put her up against a wall and had put his hands up her skirt and had put his fingers inside her," LaCasse said. Reade, as detailed in a previous NPR report, has accused Biden of pinning her against a wall in the hallway of a Capitol Hill building and penetrating her vagina with his fingers in the spring of 1993.

The Biden campaign denies the alleged incident, as do longtime Biden staffers whom Reade worked for at the time.

The Biden campaign did not specifically respond to the latest developments, but pointed NPR to its previous statement, which said that the alleged incident "absolutely did not happen." Biden has not addressed the accusation himself.

LaCasse did not initially respond to multiple phone calls and text messages from NPR, but through Reade, NPR was able to reach her. Public records confirmed that Reade and LaCasse were neighbors in Morro Bay, Calif., during the 1990s.

LaCasse said Reade was very upset during their conversation and she tried to comfort her; LaCasse also recalls advising her to file a police report.

LaCasse described herself as a "very strong Democrat," who supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the primaries and intends to support Biden in the general election.

She said she felt compelled to share "the truth" despite her personal politics.

When asked how she reconciles voting for someone she believes assaulted her old friend, LaCasse explained, "Biden isn't a bad guy. I think he's an OK guy. He just has this — this just happened."

Then she clarified: "And this happened, not just happened, this did happen." LaCasse declined to answer how she thinks other voters should consider this allegation as they weigh whether Biden should be president.

Information and questions grow

Other new information has surfaced in recent days, including a video that Reade says includes her mother calling into a cable TV show around the time of the alleged incident and another interview with a former co-worker of Reade.

Lorraine Sanchez, who worked in the same California state legislator's office as Reade in the mid-1990s, also spoke with Business Insider, saying that she recalls Reade saying that her former boss in Washington, D.C., had sexually harassed her. She did not mention assault, but Reade has made a separate harassment allegation against Biden. That has also been denied by multiple former Biden staffers.

Tara Reade's congressional identification card from the early 1990s. Records show she worked in Joe Biden's Senate office for about nine months.
Courtesy of Tara Reade

Additionally, a video from a 1993 episode of CNN's Larry King Live surfaced last week that Reade says includes her mother, whom Reade says she told about the alleged assault at the time. Reade's mother has since died.

In the video, a woman calls into the show, identified only as being from San Luis Obispo, Calif. The caller said, "Hello. I'm wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington. 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."

She does not explain what the "problems" were, nor does she mention sexual harassment, sexual assault, Joe Biden or Tara Reade.

Reade has said her mother encouraged her to file a police report back in 1993, which she did not do.

Earlier this month, Reade decided to file a report about the alleged assault with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department because she was worried about her safety after receiving "online harassment." A spokesperson for the D.C. police department, Kristen Metzger, tells NPR that an investigation into the allegation is now inactive. The statute of limitations for prosecuting the alleged assault has expired.

NPR has spoken with multiple staffers in Biden's office from the time period when Reade worked for him, and none of them could confirm Reade's recollections of harassment or assault. Many of them described an office culture that promoted and cultivated women in a time period when that was not the norm.

Biden's campaign has not separately responded to the latest developments, but Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, previously put out this statement disputing the allegation: "Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. 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."

More political pressure on Democrats

Reade's allegation has put Democrats in an uncomfortable spot, torn between defending the presumptive Democratic nominee and believing all women who make allegations against any powerful men.

Asked about the allegation on Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who formally endorsed Biden this week, said "I have complete respect for the whole #metoo movement. I have four daughters and one son. And there's a lot of excitement around the idea that women will be heard and listened to. There is also due process."

Pelosi also expressed her continued support for Biden. "I want to remove all doubt in anyone's mind, I have great comfort-level with the situation as I see it with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward," she said.

This additional information is renewing attention on Biden's behavior and has put pressure on the presumptive Democratic nominee to respond, which he has not yet done directly. At the same time, President Trump's allies have been eager to pounce on the allegations and amplify them, accusing the media of downplaying the story relative to allegations against Republican men, particularly pointing to the frenzy around allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Radio, "At the very least, it's pretty obvious that the same people who were outraged about allegations — unproven allegations against Justice Kavanaugh when he was in high school — seemed to have little or no interest, or certainly not as much interest in suggestions of improper behavior by an adult who's in the Senate."

Republicans are starting to more directly pressure Democrats on the substance of the allegation, despite the fact that more than a dozen women have publicly accused Trump of various incidents of sexual assault, all of which he denies.

The campaign committee for House Republicans put out a number of statements on Thursday morning calling on individual Democratic House members and candidates to respond.

When asked about Reade's allegation, some of Biden's allies point to his legislative record on women's issues, particularly the Violence Against Women Act.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who was a leading voice calling for former Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against him in 2017, stood by Biden this week.

"So when we say 'believe women,' it's for this explicit intention of making sure there's space for all women to come forward to speak their truth, to be heard. And in this allegation, that is what Tara Reade has done," Gillibrand told reporters on a call. "She has come forward, she has spoken, and they have done an investigation in several outlets. Those investigations, Vice President Biden has called for himself. Vice President Biden has vehemently denied these allegations and I support Vice President Biden."

Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia who has expressed strong interest in being Biden's running mate, told CNN on Tuesday that she believes the former vice president as well.

"I believe that women deserve to be heard and I believe they need to be listened to, but I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources," she said. "I believe the Biden I know, and I think he will make women proud; he will make America proud."

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