RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This morning, the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden responded directly to an accusation of sexual assault made by Tara Reade. She worked as a junior staffer in Biden's Senate office in 1993, when she says the assault occurred. Biden spoke with MSNBC.
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JOE BIDEN: I'm saying unequivocally, it never, never happened.
MARTIN: We should mention we're about to talk about an allegation that will be disturbing to a lot of listeners. NPR's Asma Khalid has been reporting on the story and joins us now. Asma, let's begin with what Tara Reade has accused Joe Biden of. You have talked with her multiple times. What does she say?
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, she says at some point in the spring of 1993, she delivered a duffel bag to Biden in a hallway on Capitol Hill. This is what Reade told me happened when she then met up with Biden.
TARA READE: He put me up against the wall, and his hands went underneath my clothing. And he was touching me in my private areas and without my consent.
KHALID: Reade said Biden penetrated her vagina with his fingers. She could not recall the exact date or location of the incident. And Rachel, she told me that she filed a complaint with a Senate office, not about the alleged assault but about harassment. She could not recall, though, where she filed that complaint, and she doesn't have a copy of it.
MARTIN: But there could potentially be a record of her complaint somewhere. I mean, what did Joe Biden say about that this morning?
KHALID: Well, there have been a lot of questions about the private records from Joe Biden's office because they're under seal at the University of Delaware until he leaves public life. That's a deadline that's been extended because he decided to run for president. What Biden has said, though, about those records is that they do not contain personnel files. He said any record of a Senate complaint like what Reade is describing would only exist at the National Archives. So he's called on the secretary of Senate to identify any record and release it to the press if such a record exists. He was asked in this morning's interview if he's prepared to release the information not just about Reade's complaint but about any complaint if, you know, any others exist. And he said he's prepared to do that because no complaints ever occurred.
MARTIN: So this has proven to be rather uncomfortable for a number of Democrats who have maintained, as part of the #MeToo movement, that - this idea that all women should be believed in these cases. But now that the presumptive nominee for their party is facing an allegation, this idea has become less absolute.
KHALID: That's right. You know, and Republicans have been accusing Democrats of hypocrisy, specifically pointing to the fact that they believed Christine Blasey Ford's allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. So why are they not believing, they say, Tara Reade. Biden was asked about this on "Morning Joe" today by Mika Brzezinski.
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MIKA BRZEZINSKI: You said if someone like Dr. Ford were to come out, the essence of what she is saying has to be believed, has to be real. Why...
BIDEN: I know what I said. It has to be...
BRZEZINSKI: Why is it real for Dr. Ford but not for Tara Reade?
BIDEN: There - because the facts are - look, I'm not suggesting she had no right to come forward. And I never - and I'm not saying - any woman, they should come forward. They should be heard, and then it should be investigated.
KHALID: And Biden reiterated that this claim is not true and that truth matters and that he's worked his entire life, he says, to change the laws and culture to help victims of sexual assault.
MARTIN: I can't imagine, in this political climate, that this is the end of it. What is the next step in all this?
KHALID: Yeah, definitely not. I mean, Tara Reade has not done any TV interviews so far, but she's expected to do one in the coming days. You know, Republicans have been amplifying this story. They're pressuring Democrats to respond. But look, Rachel - I mean, this is a tough moral battle for Republicans to wage without themselves appearing hypocritical because while they point at Biden for this allegation, more than a dozen women have publicly accused Trump of various incidents of sexual assault, all of which he denies.
You know, as for Democrats, they've been standing by Biden, coming out to publicly endorse him even after this allegation was reported. But some women's rights activists had been calling on Biden to respond directly to the allegation. Now that he has, we'll have to see if they're satisfied with how he's addressed it.
MARTIN: Thank you. NPR's Asma Khalid.
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