Former Vice President Joe Biden is finally speaking out against allegations of sexual assault, in a carefully orchestrated set of releases. On Friday, Biden released a statement on Medium denying the allegations made by his former Senate aide, Tara Reade. Soon after, he appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to reiterate his innocence. In the post, after noting that April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, reminding readers of his leadership in the Violence Against Women Act, and acknowledging the “importance of women feeling they can step forward, say something, and be heard,” Biden went on to say that Reade’s claims are “untrue,” “never happened,” and that they reveal a “growing record of inconsistencies.”
“While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated,” Biden wrote. “One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.”
This scrutiny, Biden implied, had been righteously exercised by his team, a practice of due diligence that affirms Reade’s claims are lies. Never mind that Reade’s story that Biden sexually assaulted her when she worked for him in the ‘90s has been amplified by new evidence, including Reade’s former neighbor confirming that Reade told her about the alleged incident and an uncovered episode of Larry King Live in which Reade’s mother asks for advice for her daughter who experienced “problems” while working with a “prominent senator” and couldn’t get the help she needed. According to Biden, both former senior staffers, as well as Reade’s former supervisor, say that Reade never came forward with complaints.
Biden insists that if Reade’s accusations were true, there would be a paper trail validating her damning claims, a smoking gun. So he implored the public and the media alike to judge her accuracy based on the discovery of a complaint. “News organizations that have talked with literally dozens of former staffers have not found one — not one — who corroborated her allegations in any way,” Biden wrote. “Indeed, many of them spoke to the culture of an office that would not have tolerated harassment in any way — as indeed I would not have.” He is so confident that there are no recorded complaints against him that he invited the Secretary of the Senate to take a look around the National Archives:
The former staffer has said she filed a complaint back in 1993. But she does not have a record of this alleged complaint. The papers from my Senate years that I donated to the University of Delaware do not contain personnel files. It is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record: speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills.
There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be — the National Archives. The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. 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. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.
Biden is relying on the absence of evidence as evidence, which only holds up in a universe in which sexual harassment is taken seriously, in which sexual harassment is never obscured to protect those in power. This insistence that the University of Delaware archives do not contain any personnel files—as if such files are not controlled and updated by a loyal and protective team, as if such systems aren’t designed to insulate—requires absolute faith in Biden, who continues to argue that Americans should simply take his word for it. The weakness of this blind faith was made loud and clear during Biden’s appearance on Morning Joe.
Discrepancies about his archives were the center of much of the conversation. And Biden has successfully turned the focus on the contents of his archives, even though it’s safe to say he has control over those archives.
“Do you agree with the reporting that [the University of Delaware] records were supposed to be revealed for the public, and then they were resealed for a longer period of time, until after you leave, quote, public life?” Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Biden. “If you agree with that, if that’s what happened, why did it happen?”
Biden justified the archive’s closure with his entrance into the race for president. “The idea that they would all be made public while I was running for public office,” he said. “They can be really taken out of context.”
He continued: “The papers are position papers, they are documents that existed, for example, when I met with Putin, or when I met with whomever. And all of that, to be fodder in a campaign at this time? I don’t know of anybody who’s done anything like that. So the National Archives are the only place there would be anything having to do with personnel records. Ther are no personnel records in the Biden papers at the University.”
Brzezinski asked if he would approve a search of Tara Reade’s name in the University of Delaware records.
“There is nothing,” Biden said. “They’re not there. I don’t know the point you’re trying to make.”
Biden insisted that the University of Delaware records are riddled with confidential conversations, but no personnel files, implying that even a cursory search of Reade would be pointless. After Brzezinski pushed further, he asked, “Who does that search?”
“The University of Delaware? Perhaps you set up a commission that can do it? I don’t know, whatever is the fairest way to create the most transparency,” Brzezinski said.
A visibly exasperated Biden replied, “If the report was ever filed, it was filed there [in the National Archives], period.”
The Reade accusations aren’t going to go away, no matter how many prominent politicians line up in Biden’s defense, no matter how many times the Krassenstein brothers and their disciples try to discredit Reade on the internet. Still, Biden is blocking even the most cursory evidence search of the University of Delaware archives, doing little to solidify his assertion that there is nothing to hide. Perhaps questions of underhandedness would be quelled if Biden didn’t act as if his word alone will put Reade’s accusation to rest.