WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The woman who alleges presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 said in a video interview on Thursday that he should withdraw from the White House race.
Tara Reade’s comments in an interview with former NBC and Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly came six days after Biden said in his first public remarks about the alleged incident that it “never happened.”
“You and I were there, Joe Biden. Please step forward and be held accountable,” Reade said in a portion of the interview posted on Twitter by Kelly. “You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”
Asked if Biden should withdraw from the race, Reade said: “I wish he would, but he won’t.”
Responding to Reade’s latest interview, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said on Thursday that “more and more inconsistencies keep emerging” in Reade’s account.
“Women must receive the benefit of the doubt,” Bedingfield said in an emailed statement. “At the same time, we can never sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that these allegations are false and that the material that has been presented to back them up, under scrutiny, keeps proving their falsity.”
The statement did not address Reade’s call for Biden to drop out of the race.
Reade, who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s U.S. Senate office from December 1992 to August 1993, has accused Biden in media interviews of pinning her against a wall in 1993, reaching under her skirt and pushing his fingers inside her.
Biden, 77, who will be the Democratic nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump, 73, said in a MSNBC interview last week that “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.”
Reade was one of eight women who last year came forward to say Biden had hugged, kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, though none accused him of sexual assault. Reade publicly accused him of the assault on a podcast in March.
Several news outlets that have published Reade’s account, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, have interviewed a friend who said Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time. Another friend told the Times that Reade told her in 2008 about a previous traumatic incident involving Biden. Reade’s brother also confirmed parts of Reade’s account to The Intercept and the Post.
Reade, 56, told media interviewers she complained at the time about sexual harassment, though not sexual assault, to three of Biden’s Senate aides. The Biden campaign released a statement from one, Marianne Baker, who said she never received any report of inappropriate behavior in nearly 20 years of working for Biden.
The Post and Times interviewed the other two aides, both of whom told the newspapers they had no recollection of Reade’s complaint.
Biden last week asked the Secretary of the Senate to make public any records containing a complaint or other documents relating to Reade’s allegation, if they exist. The Senate denied the request because of confidentiality requirements.
Some prominent Democratic women including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator and former presidential rival Elizabeth Warren have defended Biden, who was President Barack Obama’s vice president.
Reade, who describes herself as a Democrat and supporter of Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, has hired the New York law firm of Wigdor LLP, which has represented some of the alleged sexual assault victims of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, to represent her.
The firm said in a statement on Thursday that partner Douglas Wigdor supported Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign but that the firm’s representation of Reade “has absolutely nothing to do with politics.”
“We have decided to take this matter on because every survivor has the right to competent counsel, and that is exactly what we will provide,” the statement said.
Reporting by John Whitesides and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis