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Pelosi says she's "satisfied" with Biden's response to sexual assault allegations

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https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pelosi-biden-sexual-assault-allegations-response/

 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she was "satisfied" with the response of Joe Biden's presidential campaign to allegations of sexual assault against him.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by a former Senate staffer, Tara Reade. Biden's campaign has denied the allegations, although Biden himself has not directly addressed them.

"I do support Joe Biden. I'm satisfied with how he has responded," Pelosi said in an interview with CNN's "New Day." She announced her endorsement of Biden on Monday.

CNN pressed Pelosi on Biden's own public silence so far in the face of the allegations.

"You know, it's a matter that he has to deal with, but I am impressed with the people who work for him saying that they absolutely never heard one iota of information about this. Nobody ever brought forth a claim or had anybody else tell them about such a claim," Pelosi replied.

Pelosi reiterated her support for Biden in her weekly press conference Thursday, saying that she has "complete respect for the Me Too movement," but that she also believes in due process.

There is "due process and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden," Pelosi told reporters, noting that his Senate staff had been interviewed, and there was no record of Reade's accusation.

"I have a great comfort level with the situation as I see it," Pelosi said.

CBS News has spoken with Reade multiple times since she first accused him of sexually assaulting her. She recounted many of the details she first shared with a progressive podcast on March 25, alleging that Biden penetrated her with his hand while in the U.S. Capitol complex in 1993, when she was an aide in his Senate office.

In 2019 several other women accused Biden of inappropriate touching that was overly affectionate or too familiar. Reade is the only individual who has come forward to accuse him of sexual assault. She told CBS News she was publicizing this latest allegation because she was offered the chance to do so on the podcast, not because of the Democratic presidential primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, which was competitive when Reade made this accusation. Reade publicly supported Sanders.

Her original accusations against Biden did not include the sexual assault allegation. In April 2019, she told the California newspaper The Union that "he used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck. I would just kind of freeze and wait for him to stop doing that." She also claimed that her responsibilities in his Senate office were reduced after she refused to serve drinks at an event. Reade said that Biden had made the request of her because he liked Reade's legs.

The Union reported, "Reade said she didn't consider the acts [by Biden] toward her sexualization. She instead compared her experience to being a lamp," a piece of furniture to be moved around. "'Then when it's too bright, you throw it away,'" Reade said.

There has been some new corroboration that Reade first alleged the assault in the 1990s. This week, a former neighbor of Reade's in the 90s, Lynda LaCasse, told CBS News she remembers Reade telling her around 1995 or 1996 about an assault by Biden, a detail first reported by Business Insider.

Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, also told CBS News he remembers Reade saying Biden put his hand "under her clothes," but his account has evolved since he  spoke to ABC News in March, when he said he was aware of workplace harassment. He also said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that in 1993, Reade had told him that Biden had inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders. Several days later, he texted the Post to say that he recalled Reade had told him Biden had put his hand "'under her clothing.'"

But more recently, others have said Reade only spoke positively about her previous work in Biden's office. Lynn Hummer, who operates a California horse rescue where Reade volunteered for a few years, told CBS News Reade wore her experience in Biden's office like a "feather in her cap." Hummer also questioned Reade's truthfulness.

The New York Times interviewed Reade's former colleagues, who did not remember any complaints from Reade about the kind of behavior from Biden she describes now.

One of Reade's former colleagues, Marianne Baker, Biden's former executive assistant in the 1990s, provided a statement to CBS News through the Biden campaign expressing doubt about Reade's allegations.

"I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone," the statement from Baker said. "I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade's accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager."

Biden has not directly addressed Reade's allegation since she came forward 36 days ago. Several of his rumored potential running mates and other high-profile Democrats have responded.

Stacey Abrams told HuffPost in an email, "I believe women deserve to be heard, and I believe that has happened here." Senator Kamala Harris told The San Francisco Chronicle that Reade "has a right to tell her story. And I believe that and I believe Joe Biden believes that, too." Minnesota Senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar told MSNBC earlier this month, in part, "I think this case has been investigated." 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told NPR, "I think women should be able to tell their stories. I think that it is important that these allegations are vetted, from the media to beyond. And I think that, you know, it is something that no one takes lightly.

Three aides to these women, who may be under consideration to be Biden's running mate, told CBS News the lack of response from Biden directly has put them in a tough and frustrating position.

"I think it's relevant to talk about anything," Senator Bernie Sanders said in an interview with  "CBS This Morning" in April  when he was asked about the allegation. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went further than Sanders earlier this month and encouraged discussion about the allegation. 

"I think it's legitimate to talk about these things. And if we want, if we again want to have integrity, you can't say, you know — both believe women, support all of this, until it inconveniences you, until it inconveniences us," Ocasio-Cortez said in an online conversation with The Wing, a networking and community space for women.

Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, told CBS News earlier this month that the accusation was "untrue."

"Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women," Bedingfield's statement read. "He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."
 
Reade has called on Biden to release his records from his 36-year tenure as a senator, which are currently being kept by the University of Delaware and are inaccessible to the public. The university has refused to disclose the papers, telling news outlets that they will become available two years after Biden has left public life.

Reade told Fox News earlier this week that she believed the records would include a complaint form she filed during her time in Biden's office. Reade previously told the Times that she filed a complaint with the Senate personnel office, but said that she did not have a copy of the complaint, and the Times was unable to find any such form.

 

 

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