Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden told the world that he “unequivocally” denied accusations by Tara Reade, a former staffer in his Senate office, that he sexually assaulted her in the early ’90s.
On Friday evening, Reade responded: Prove it.
“Joe Biden should take the polygraph,” Reade told former television anchor Megyn Kelly, in an interview that aired on Kelly’s YouTube channel. “I will take one if Joe Biden takes one, but I’m not a criminal.”
In the interview, Reade’s second on-camera appearance since she accused Biden of sexual assault in March, she told Kelly that she wanted Biden to withdraw from his campaign for the White House, and accused him of failing to protect her from his supporters.
“All my social media has been hacked, all my personal information has been dragged through, every person that maybe has a gripe against me—an ex-boyfriend or an ex-landlord or whatever it is—has been able to have a platform rather than me,” Reade said, adding that her past support for Vladimir Putin in a blog post had encouraged fake news and online death threats. “I got a death threat from that because they thought I was being a traitor to America.”
Reade told Kelly that she was initially excited to work in Biden’s Senate office on Capitol Hill, but that he almost immediately made her feel physically uncomfortable with his proximity.
“I would see him in hallways or whatever—he would always just greet me, put his hands on me, or put his hands on my shoulder or rub my neck sometimes,” Reade said. “It was just a bit odd, and I’d never had an employer do that.”
Reade described an atmosphere of permissibility in Biden’s office when it came to sexual harassment in the workplace, telling Kelly that she once entered the office to find that Marianne Baker, Biden’s longtime secretary, was discussing with another aide the possibility of having her serve drinks at a function “because the senator had said he liked my legs and thought I was pretty.”
After Reade complained, she said, Baker told her to dress more conservatively, and the environment in Biden’s office became “icy.”
It was soon after that conversation, Reade said, that the alleged assault took place.
As she has stated previously, Reade described being instructed by Baker to give Biden a duffel bag in a hallway in the Russell Senate Office Building, where she found the senator talking with someone else. When that person departed and she handed Biden the bag, Reade alleges the senator pushed her up against a wall and shoved his hands under her clothes.
““He had one hand underneath my shirt and the other hand—I had a skirt on—and he, like, went down my skirt and then went up,” Reade recalled tearfully, saying that Biden asked her if she wanted to “go somewhere else.”
“He said ‘I want to fuck you,’” Reade said.
Reade said that Biden then penetrated her, pulled away as she resisted, and put his finger in her face, telling her that she was “nothing.”
“His words, those words, stayed with me my whole life, and as I’ve been trying to tell my story, I’ve kind of been torn apart trying to tell it, those words come back,” Reade said, adding that she would “never forget.”
Reade’s interview, which aired with next to no notice on Kelly’s personal YouTube channel, comes after she cancelled two more traditional on-camera appearances on Fox News and CNN at the last minute due to security concerns. Kelly told The Daily Beast that she landed the interview, in part, because Reade considers her “trauma-informed” by her own history of interviewing sexual harassment and assault survivors on the short-lived Megyn Kelly Today program, as well as her own charge of sexual misconduct against former boss Roger Ailes.
The interview was not without uncomfortable reminders of Kelly’s occasional lack of finesse as a serious interviewer, however, including a long and uncomfortable digression about what kind of lingerie Reade was wearing at the time of the alleged assault.
The interview comes on the heels of multiple reports by various local and national outlets that appear to bolster parts of Reade’s allegations, including a report in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, which obtained a 1996 court filing written by Reade’s ex-husband in which he claimed that his former wife had “struck a deal” with Biden’s chief of staff following accusations of sexual harassment. Ted Kaufman, a longtime Biden advisor and his chief of staff at the time, has denied ever discussing sexual harassment or assault complaints with Reade.
Reade explained Kaufman’s lack of recollection, as well as that of two other Biden staffers with whom she claims she discussed the alleged harassment, as evidence of a cover-up.
“Well, you have to look at the source—so they’re still working with Biden,” Reade said. “Their job was to cover what he did… in a way, they’re complicit.”
Three people, including Reade’s brother, a former neighbor, and an anonymous friend have told various news outlets that Reade had told them about some aspects of the alleged assault or harassment over the years.
Reade told Kelly that she attempted to raise the claims with numerous news outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Yorker, PBS, and even the rival political campaigns of Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. None, Reade said, got back to her.
“Everything’s political, right? But this is deeper than that,” Reade, who told Kelly that she is leaving the Democratic Party, said. “He is running on a platform of character, and I found that gross. I know what he’s like.”
Last year, in conversations with numerous reporters as Biden was under fire for making several women feel physically uncomfortable in a non-sexual manner, Reade claimed that Biden did not assault her, but instead that she had been asked by a staffer to serve drinks at a fundraiser, which made her feel uncomfortable. Reade told Kelly that the discrepancy was because she feared her life being torn apart by Biden’s defenders.
“I think I’m a poster child as to why women wouldn’t come forward,” Reade said.
Biden and his campaign have flatly denied Reade’s claims, and have called for the release of any personnel complaints pertaining to Reade to be released from the National Archives—although the secretary of the Senate, which controls those records, has said that it cannot do so.
“I am requesting that the secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document,” Biden told MSNBC last week, in his first public response to Reade’s allegations. “If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has pinned his candidacy on a message of “restoring the soul of America,” with particular emphasis on assertions that the character of incumbent President Donald Trump is deficient. Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and rape by more than two dozen women, and has denied them all, often in derrogatory terms.
While the former vice president’s public response to Reade’s allegations has emphasized the importance of not dismissing claims of sexual misconduct out of hand, Reade told Kelly that his words are insufficient.
“I want to say: you and I were there, Joe Biden. Please step forward and be held accountable,” Reade said. “You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”