Joe Biden accuser Tara Reade, who claims that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sexually assaulted her when she briefly worked in Biden’s Senate office almost three decades ago, retained attorney Douglas Wigdor before sitting down with Megyn Kelly for a video interview Thursday.
Reade, 56, who has given widely differing accounts of her complaint against the former vice president and Delaware senator, had originally agreed to a May 3 interview with Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace and then canceled at the last minute, explaining that she wasn’t ready.
Biden has categorically denied Reade’s claims, saying during a May 1 MSNBC appearance that “it never, never happened.” Investigations by The New York Times and The Washington Post were unable to verify them. Senior members of Biden’s Senate staff said Reade never complained to them.
“We at Wigdor LLP firmly believe that every survivor of sexual assault has the right to competent legal counsel, and we will represent Ms. Reade zealously, just as we would any other victim of sexual violence,” Wigdor, who identifies himself as a Republican who voted for Trump in 2016, said in a press release Thursday announcing the interview. “Ms. Reade will be heard shortly in an interview conducted by Megyn Kelly and produced by Richard McHugh, and she will describe to the American public what happened to her. Her harrowing account is credible and supported by numerous ‘outcry’ witnesses from decades ago.”
McHugh, a former producer for NBC News’ investigative unit who worked closely with Ronan Farrow on the Harvey Weinstein story until NBC executives killed it, recently published a story in Business Insider that featured an interview with one of Reade’s California neighbors, who said Reade told her about Biden’s alleged assault sometime in 1995.
Reade went public with her allegations in March, saying Biden penetrated her with his fingers in 1993 when she delivered a gym bag to him in a Senate corridor. Reade said that after she complained about being harassed, Biden’s staff retaliated against her, removing her from her post supervising Senate interns and forcing her to leave her job after a mere five months.
Reade told her then-husband Theodore Dronen that she was sexually harassed when she worked for Biden, according to a 1996 court filing that mentions ““a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office.” The Tribune of San Luis Obispo was the first to report on the filing.
In the interview, a segment of which Kelly released on Twitter, Reade calls on Biden to withdraw from the race.
“I want to say: You and I were there, Joe Biden,” Reade told Kelly. “Please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”
In his press release, Wigdor attempted to head off criticism that he was taking Reade’s case for political reasons.
“It is inevitable that partisan politics will lead people to attack our firm and Mr. Wigdor specifically, particularly given his support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign,” the press release continued. Wigdor has filed high-profile lawsuits against Fox News on behalf of employees claiming sexual, racial, and other forms of workplace harassment. “However, any objective view of Mr. Wigdor’s career and the history of the Firm (which is comprised of partners, lawyers and staff from all political parties) belie such a false narrative and make clear that our representation is simply a continuation of our objective support of all legitimate victims.”
Kelly’s interview with Reade, which does not yet have an air date, comes after the former staffer abruptly cancelled two scheduled interviews with mainstream cable news anchors. On April 30, The New York Times reported that Reade had agreed to a sitdown with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace to be filmed on Friday morning and aired on Sunday. But shortly before Reade was set to be interviewed, with the camera crew already en route to her location, she pulled the plug, a Fox News source told The Daily Beast. Reade later told the AP that she canceled due to security concerns.
Reade also reneged on an agreed-upon interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, the host told viewers on May 4, saying that she cited “security concerns” following Biden’s on-air interview.
“Last Friday, Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault when she worked in his Senate office in 1993, canceled an interview she agreed to do with me, saying she wasn’t comfortable doing the interview any longer after the former vice president spoke with MSNBC that morning and categorically denied the allegation,” Lemon said, adding that Reade told him “she wants to tell her story and promised me she’ll reschedule our interview.”
A CNN source told The Daily Beast that the network is “trying to salvage” the interview, but that “almost everyone is out of the loop.”
Kelly—who has alleged that she was once subjected to repeated workplace sexual harassment by her boss, the late Roger Ailes—was once one of Fox News Channel’s most popular anchors before decamping to NBC’s Today Show after the 2016 presidential election. She has a mixed record when it comes to high-profile interviews: a June 2017 sitdown with Russian president Vladimir Putin, meant to showcase her skills as a serious interviewer, was instead widely criticized as wasting an opportunity to hold the autocrat to account for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, and Kelly herself later admitted that she had been outmaneuvered by Putin.
In another highly anticipated sitdown during the 2016 presidential campaign, Kelly interviewed then-Republican nominee Donald Trump, an interview which received a mixed reception for spending much of its time focusing on Kelly and her own feud with the future president.
The anchor later lost her eight-figure job with NBC after she publicly defended white people who wear blackface on Halloween.
Since his own television interview on Friday, in which he declared he was “absolutely positive” that no one in his office was made aware of any complaint made by Reade, Biden has continued with campaigning-as-usual, insofar as the coronavirus pandemic has allowed. On Thursday evening, the campaign will host a national “Women for Biden” call with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of half a dozen such events geared towards shoring up support among women voters since the beginning of March.
Despite—or, perhaps, because of—Biden’s outreach on women’s issues in recent weeks, most outside women’s groups have remained mum on the accusations leveled against the former vice president. Meanwhile, some insurgent progressive Democratic candidates, many of them women, are increasingly vocal in expressing support for Reade.
“I am a lot freer to speak about this stuff,” Rebecca Parson, who is running against Rep. Derek Kilmer in Washington state’s 6th congressional district, told The Daily Beast earlier this week. “Sexual assault should be a red line for us. We need to be able to distinguish ourselves from the Republicans… We can’t win with hypocrisy like that.”
—Andrew Kirell contributed reporting to this story