In an interview published in BuzzFeed Thursday, former Senate staffer Tara Reade said she feels betrayed by the party she has long supported.
Reade, who has accused former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assaulting her in 1993, was responding to the flurry of support Biden has received in recent weeks from high-profile Democrats, many of them women.
Among them was potential Biden running mate Stacey Abrams, who told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night that she believes the former Delaware senator.
“I believe that he is a person who has demonstrated that his love of family, his love of our community, has been made perfectly clear through his work as a congressional leader and as an American leader,” she said. “I know Joe Biden and I think he’s telling the truth and that this did not happen.”
Reade, who describes herself as a “lifelong Democrat,” told BuzzFeed she was a particular fan of Abrams. The former Georgia House minority leader became a national star after she launched a hotly-contested campaign to win the state’s governorship in 2018. Abrams ultimately lost to then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was accused of suppressing thousands of votes to win the election.
Reade noted that Abrams, as well as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced their support of Biden on the same day. In previous weeks, California Senator Kamala Harris, also seen as a potential Biden running mate, also said she believed Biden’s side of the story.
“I just— I’m stunned,” Reade said. “They didn’t just say, ‘Oh, we’re standing with Joe Biden until we hear more.’ They just discounted me. They marginalized me. They said they didn’t believe me. I can’t tell you,” Reade said, trailing off. “I cried for a while because they’re important in my life. They’ve been figures that I looked up to.”
Ever since the #MeToo movement rose into national prominence in October 2017, Democrats—and in particular, Democratic women officials—have championed it. Gillibrand, notably, was one the first Democratic senators to call for Al Franken’s resignation. The former senator from Minnesota was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in 2017, and resigned early 2018.
But many of the elected women who have positioned themselves as public advocates of sexual assault survivors have given their blessing to Biden. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party— was uncompromising in her support:
“I have complete respect for the whole #MeToo movement,” Pelosi said Thursday, the same day she gave Biden her endorsement for president. “There’s also due process and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden.”
At least seven women, not including Reade, have come forward over the years to say that Biden made contact with them that they found inappropriate or uncomfortable. As recently as 2019, Reade was on record saying that during her time working at Biden’s Senate office, he would touch her neck and shoulders, and once asked her to serve drinks at an event because he liked her legs.
But in a podcast interview with political commentator Katie Halper in March, Reade expanded on her fallout with Biden, saying he once pinned her to a wall and put his hands under her skirt, groping her and penetrating her with his fingers. Reade was in her twenties at the time.
Reade’s claims have gained more attention in recent weeks as follow-up reports of her allegations have corroborated some parts of her story, forcing Biden to publicly address the comments himself on Friday morning (his campaign had denied the allegations for weeks).
As BuzzFeed News summarized:
Former interns from the Senate office remember Reade being reassigned away from managing them, according to the New York Times. After Reade mentioned that her mother had called into Larry King Live, the Intercept published the transcript from a 1993 episode where a caller described her daughter’s negative experience with a “prominent senator,” though the caller does not detail the nature of the experience.
Across different outlets, people who knew Reade have said she told them that she had had a bad experience with her boss in Washington — with varied levels of detail. In an interview with Business Insider, a former neighbor, Lynda LaCasse, said Reade detailed her full allegation against Biden in the 1990s. The New York Times and Washington Post each reported they spoke with an unnamed friend who had said Reade told her about the allegation in the 1990s as well.
Others have provided more limited accounts — one friend told the Washington Post, for instance, that she remembered Reade saying Biden touched her arm and behaved inappropriately, but did not have other details. Reade’s brother initially told the Post he remembered her telling him that Biden was “inappropriate,” but followed up days later to clarify that he recalled Reade telling him that the then-senator had put his hands under her clothes.
But this additional corroboration has notable limits. Reade told the New York Times that after the alleged assault, she complained directly to three other Senate aides. They have all said they either don’t remember a complaint or that it didn’t take place.
Reade, who says she has received threats and online abuse since coming forward with her story, has been accused of acting on behalf of a number of parties and personalities: Some have accused her of working for the Russians, while others have pointed to her previous support of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and wondered whether she’s trying to torpedo Biden’s efforts to win the presidency.
Reade herself acknowledged the high stakes of her assault claims to BuzzFeed.
“Most people I know are horrified at the idea of four more years of the Trump presidency,” she said. “He’s an incredibly dangerous man.”
She told the outlet doesn’t plan to vote for president but will vote in local elections. But despite her disillusion with the Democratic Party, Reade said she has declined invitations to appear on Fox News, including Hannity and Tucker Carlson because she doesn’t want her story “being politically hijacked.”
“I want a safe platform to tell my full history with Joe Biden,” she said.
But in a more recent interview with BuzzFeed, she acknowledged she “hadn’t made a final decision” about whether to appear on the conservative cable channel.
“I used to think that a Republican talking point was to call the mainstream media biased,” Reade told BuzzFeed. “So I used to think, Oh, that’s just a talking point for them. I don’t believe it. But now I’m living it [in] real time, and I see it — like, I see it for what it is. Because I am a Democrat, or I was. But now I’m not anything, really. I’m politically homeless.”