Sexual assault allegation against Biden coming to front of campaign

Former staffer says Biden assaulted her in Capitol Hill office building in the 1990s.

Posted: Apr 29, 2020 5:27 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2020 7:40 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sexual assault allegation is raising Joe Biden's first big challenge as the Democrats' presidential nominee, fueling Republican attacks and leaving many in his own party in an uncomfortable bind.

Biden's campaign has denied the allegation from his former Senate staffer Tara Reade, who has said Biden assaulted her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in the 1990s. But the story garnered fresh attention this week after two of Reade's associates said she previously told them about elements of her allegations.

Republicans who are 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 are digging in despite the fact that it could renew attention on the multiple sexual assault allegations lodged against Trump.

Democrats, meanwhile, are in an awkward position of vigorously validating women who come forward with their stories while defending the man who will be their standard-bearer in what many in the party consider the most important election of their lifetimes.

The tension is heightened because Biden himself is saying nothing about the allegation.

Like many Americans, he has spent the past several weeks at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Biden has participated in a handful of local and national interviews, during which he wasn't asked about the allegation. But he hasn't held a press briefing for the broader press corps that covers him since April 2, before multiple news organizations reported Reade's story. The public appearances he has made, such as fundraisers or events alongside prominent Democrats, have been controlled.

Some Democrats say that approach isn't working and are urging a more forceful response.

“The campaign has issued statements, but he hasn’t issued any statements in his own voice,” said former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile. “It’s not helping, it’s just damaging — not only to the person who has come forward, but it’s also damaging the candidate.”

Lis Smith, who worked as a top strategist on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, also called on the Biden campaign to speak up.

“These accusations have not been found to be credible, so it’s in the Biden campaign’s interest to nip this in the bud directly and do it quickly,” she said.

The November contest between Biden and Trump will be the first presidential race of the #MeToo era, which has led numerous women to come forward with allegations of sexual assault. Trump himself has been accused of assault and unwanted touching by numerous women, allegations he denies. He was forced to apologize during the 2016 campaign after he was heard on a recording bragging about using his fame to assault women.

Women are a core constituency for Democrats, and Biden has a mixed history. While he wrote the Violence Against Women Act as a senator, he also came under heavy criticism for his handling of Anita Hill's Senate testimony in the 1990s. Just before he launched his 2020 campaign, several women accused him of unwanted touching, behavior for which he apologized.

Biden has pledged to pick a woman as a running mate, and the allegation has left those thought to be in contention in a tough spot.

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic governor candidate, said, “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.”

“The New York Times did a deep investigation and they found that the accusation was not credible,” she added. “I believe Joe Biden.”

That echoed talking points issued by the Biden campaign to surrogates last week that were obtained by The Associated Press. They pointed to investigations by The New York Times, The Washington Post and the AP that found no other allegation of sexual assault and no pattern of sexual misconduct.

Some Democratic donors and fundraisers say the issue has not come up in calls with party financiers. Others worry that it could be used against Biden, much as Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the activities of the Clinton Foundation were wielded against her by Trump.

Some, most notably women, say they are paying close attention to the allegations, which gave them pause.

Alex Sink, a donor and former Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, said she was “not happy” to read about the allegations against Biden. While she still plans to vote for him, she worried his campaign was too quick to categorically deny Reade's story.

“They put themselves immediately out on a limb by saying, ‘It didn’t happen, we categorically deny it, it’s not true,’” Sink said. “That’s a dangerous position to be in because they aren’t leaving any room for themselves.”

Some female Democratic operatives expressed concerns the allegation is particularly damaging because it’s an indictment of Biden’s central campaign rationale: that he provides a moral counter to Trump and that the election is a “battle for the soul of America.”

“I think the stakes could not be higher for defeating Donald Trump — but at the same time, I think we have to apply a consistent standard for how we treat allegations of sexual assault, and also be clear-eyed about how Donald Trump will use these allegations in the general election campaign,” said Claire Sandberg, who worked as Bernie Sanders’ organizing director this cycle.

The silence from the Biden campaign has given Republicans an opening on an issue that was, in 2016, far more fraught for the GOP, when Trump was asked to answer for the more than two dozen women who alleged varying levels of sexual assault and harassment from him. The GOP argues Democrats aren't being consistent, pointing to the aggressive questioning and coverage of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he faced an allegation of sexual assault.

“The left, and their media allies, has one standard for Republicans and another standard for Democrats like Joe Biden," said Steve Guest, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "The double standard is appalling.”

Trump himself has yet to address the issue, but Donald Trump Jr. has spent weeks highlighting the allegation on Twitter, as has Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Even some Trump antagonists within the GOP say the opportunity for the president and his allies is obvious.

Rick Tyler, a former spokesman for Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and a prominent Trump critic, noted that the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent economic crash have “ruled out any prospect that Republicans could run on great economic times.”

“And so what's left? What’s left is scorched earth, and that means digging up anything they can about Biden,” he said. “They’re trying to make Joe Biden into something that’s worse than Donald Trump."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 544046

Reported Deaths: 7037
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1133801672
Ramsey46957847
Dakota41493415
Anoka37550413
Washington24418273
Stearns20651216
St. Louis16500296
Scott15592116
Wright14440124
Olmsted1260496
Sherburne1031779
Carver956143
Clay769089
Rice7454101
Blue Earth682140
Kandiyohi621879
Crow Wing596486
Chisago539948
Otter Tail535173
Benton521396
Mower447732
Winona435749
Douglas434270
Goodhue431971
Nobles396848
Morrison386359
McLeod383254
Beltrami366957
Isanti363959
Itasca359451
Polk359466
Steele349714
Becker346548
Lyon343748
Carlton324352
Freeborn321729
Pine306521
Nicollet300742
Brown291239
Mille Lacs272548
Le Sueur266222
Todd265830
Cass243826
Meeker229337
Waseca227820
Martin209729
Wabasha19803
Roseau194718
Hubbard168541
Renville168543
Dodge16834
Redwood163935
Houston161814
Cottonwood152520
Fillmore15089
Pennington148719
Chippewa143736
Faribault141819
Wadena141221
Sibley133210
Aitkin127436
Kanabec126121
Watonwan12439
Rock121218
Jackson114710
Yellow Medicine109019
Pipestone107525
Murray10169
Pope9936
Swift97718
Marshall84117
Stevens79610
Lake77819
Wilkin75812
Clearwater75614
Koochiching75612
Lac qui Parle73122
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5542
Grant5398
Norman5139
Mahnomen4898
Unassigned48778
Kittson44922
Red Lake3817
Traverse3595
Lake of the Woods2962
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 355246

Reported Deaths: 5797
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55552598
Linn20170329
Scott18763234
Black Hawk15468306
Woodbury14792219
Johnson1387680
Dubuque13035202
Dallas1082796
Pottawattamie10627160
Story1024647
Warren549086
Clinton531989
Cerro Gordo519386
Webster506191
Sioux503473
Marshall476274
Muscatine455096
Des Moines439365
Wapello4246120
Buena Vista421240
Jasper406670
Plymouth394179
Lee366855
Marion353975
Jones292355
Henry285537
Bremer278260
Carroll277750
Crawford261739
Boone256331
Benton249155
Washington248249
Dickinson238743
Mahaska223449
Jackson217242
Kossuth211561
Clay208625
Tama206371
Delaware201039
Winneshiek192633
Page189320
Buchanan187331
Cedar182723
Fayette182641
Wright178835
Hardin178742
Hamilton177049
Harrison174673
Clayton165455
Butler161834
Mills157520
Cherokee156438
Floyd154542
Lyon153641
Madison152219
Poweshiek152133
Allamakee149051
Iowa144824
Hancock142734
Winnebago135331
Grundy134732
Cass133954
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130535
Emmet127340
Shelby126637
Appanoose126247
Louisa126049
Sac125819
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw122015
Humboldt117926
Guthrie116828
Franklin112421
Palo Alto109622
Howard102622
Unassigned10040
Montgomery99737
Clarke98023
Keokuk94330
Monroe93228
Ida88533
Adair84032
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76310
Lucas74822
Osceola73816
Worth7018
Taylor65012
Fremont60410
Decatur5899
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51823
Audubon4929
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 27°
Mason City
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 28°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 27°
Austin
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 28°
Charles City
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 27°
Continued cloudy and cool conditions
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Severe Weather Awareness Week - Severe Thunderstorms

Image

Klaahsen inducted to IGCA Hall of Fame

Image

Protests continue in Brooklyn Center following death of Daunte Wright

Image

ADAPTED BOWLING

Image

Violent protests continue in Brooklyn Center Tuesday evening

Image

Aaron's Evening Forecast (4/13/21)

Image

Boat sales rising amid pandemic

Image

Pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Image

Train Depot rennovation

Image

The Landing Minnesota fundraiser

Community Events