Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday unequivocally denied the sexual assault allegation leveled against him by his former Senate staffer Tara Reade, declaring in his first interview on the claim that “the facts in this case do not exist” and presenting an account that is directly at odds with his accuser's.
During the interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and in a written statement, Biden for the first time issued a public denial on Reade’s accusations.
“No, it is not true,” Biden said. “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn’t. It never happened.”
Biden tried to walk a fine line, saying he would not impugn her motives while essentially arguing the story was made up. He further acknowledged that he has not “reached out” to Reade, as he stated the alleged incident which would have taken place 27 years ago “never happened.”
Biden was pressed on his past comments about women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault, specifically his comments surrounding the confirmation hearing of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Biden said that “believing women means taking women’s claims seriously." He added that “women have a right to be heard,” but that their claims should be investigated by the press.
“They should start off with the presumption that they’re telling the truth,” Biden said Friday. “Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts in this case do not exist.”
He added: “Look at the facts and I assure you it did not happen. Period.”
What viewers and voters were left with Friday were two accounts that were entirely at odds with one another.
Reade continues to claim that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 while she worked as a staffer in his Senate office.
The evidence in the case is mixed. Former Senate aides have either denied her account or said they don't recall her complaints. Yet associates of Reade have come forward to say they recall her telling them about such an incident.
“I don’t know why she’s saying this, I don’t know why after 27 years, all of a sudden this gets raised, but I’m not going to question her motives, I’m not going to attack her,” Biden said. “She has a right to say whatever she wants to say, but I’m going to say look at the facts.”
“The truth matters," he added.
He authorized a request for any relevant records in the National Archives while declining to OK a search for records at the University of Delaware, saying that those files would not pertain to personnel issues.
Reade in late March accused her former boss, then-Senator Biden, of cornering her in a Senate office and assaulting her in 1993. Her story has changed over time, however.
Reade and seven other women had come forward last year to accuse Biden of inappropriate contact. However, the story she told in March was far more graphic, raising the allegation to the level of sexual assault.
Reade told Fox News about numerous instances, particularly in major meetings, where Biden would "put his hands on my shoulders usually from behind, and put his fingers underneath my hair, on my neck.”
During her March interview with podcast host Katie Halper, Reade described the alleged assault.
"He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing," Reade told Halper. "There was no like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
Reade said that she was wearing “a business skirt,” but “wasn’t wearing stockings — it was a hot day.”
She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”
The Biden campaign has repeatedly denied Reade's allegations.
At the time, Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield, in a statement to Fox News said: “Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims. We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false.”
A former executive assistant to then-Senator Biden also challenged the account, calling it "clearly false."
Reade has not yet reacted to Biden's denial.
Fox News' Joey Wulfsohn contributed to this report.