Mainstream Democrats, former Obama officials and allies in the women’s rights community are making a clear push to move past the controversy over the sexual-assault allegation dogging presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden after he denied former Senate staffer Tara Reade's claims for the first time on the record.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also responded Saturday to a New York Times call for a probe into the allegation, telling Fox News it was an "absurd suggestion on its face."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had this week sent a clear signal that she was “satisfied” with Biden's response on the matter. Biden had not publicly addressed the claims -- although his campaign had denied them -- until Friday morning. After he denied the claims in a statement and in an MSNBC interview, Pelosi repeated her stance.
“I have said… I am proud to have endorsed Vice President Biden,” she said on a press call Friday. “I thought that he dealt with it, a complete denial, support for women."
Biden’s response came in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and in a written statement Friday morning.
“No, it is not true,” Biden said of the allegation made by Reade of an incident she said took place in 1993. “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn’t. It never happened.”
He also 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 initially came forward in 2019 accusing Biden of inappropriate touching, as did a number of other women at the time. But she then told a far more graphic version of her story to The Intercept and podcast host Katie Halper in late March, which raised the level of her accusation to sexual assault.
Reade, who was a supporter for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary campaign, has had a handful of associates come forward to back her story, saying that Reade had previously mentioned the alleged assault to them. But other former Senate aides have pushed back against or outright denied Reade's account.
“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 of Reade's claims. “She has a right to say whatever she wants to say, but I’m going to say look at the facts."
After the interview, several top women's groups telegraphed their satisfaction with his response.
“We have reached a pivotal moment in our nation when candidates for president are accused of sexual assault,” Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now and an ex-aide to former President Barack Obama, said in a statement. “Today, Vice President Joe Biden sat down and directly addressed the allegation against him with the seriousness it deserves, something that the current president has never done.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement Friday that the group is "glad to see Vice President Biden take a needed first step in addressing this issue head-on. We now look to Biden to continue to push this conversation, and our country, forward."
As Republicans highlighted what they saw as double standards between how Democrats treated these accusations and how they treated allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, former Obama White House Communications Director Jen Psaki pushed back.
“[S]top just stop anyone who is buying into GOP point that there is a double standard with Dr. Ford. Kavanaugh hid behind GOP trying to silence her, @JoeBiden just did an interview and has ordered all records released,” she tweeted Friday.
Meanwhile, former Obama adviser David Axelrod wrote for CNN, arguing that the team that vetted Biden to be Obama’s running mate in 2008 turned up no sign of Reade’s allegation.
“Reade did not surface her allegations of a criminal sexual assault when Biden was a candidate for president in 2008, nor did she offer them confidentially to the Obama vetting team when Biden emerged as a principal contender for vice president later that year,” he wrote.
“Had any credible issue been raised, you can be sure Biden would not have been the nominee,” he continued.
“Women who come forward deserve to be taken seriously and treated with respect, and Tara Reade's story should be heard and thoroughly investigated,” he went on to say. “But it is striking that when an experienced vetting team put Biden under a microscope before he was chosen to be second-in-line for the presidency, neither her allegations, nor anything resembling them in Biden's history, showed up.”
Not all of those traditionally sympathetic to Democrats were sold on Biden’s explanation, however. The New York Times demanded the Democratic National Committee do its own investigation into the claims made by Reade.
That brought a response by the DNC that defended Biden, saying he had been “clear” in his response to the accusations against him.
"This is an absurd suggestion on its face. Regardless of whether it’s the job of DNC to do this kind of thing, it’s already been done,” DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa told Fox News on Saturday.
"Joe Biden has been clear in responding to this allegation, he went through a thorough vetting process to be Obama’s Vice President in 2008 (which is a vetting process like no other) and lawyers and the press found nothing, and he has asked for transparency by requesting that all relevant documents be released if they exist."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder similarly backed the former VP in the wake of his statement.
"What has been described is inconsistent with the person who I've come to know and I've worked with," Holder told "Real Time with Bill Maher."
"I think the media is doing a correct job looking into the allegations, finding out a variety of things. The vice president has denied that it actually did occur. And as I said, his denial is consistent with the Joe Biden that I know.”
He also tried to turn the scrutiny back to President Trump.
"It's interesting that the people who are trying to fan this thing are the very people who support Donald Trump and, of course, who say nothing about the allegations that have been raised, I think very credibly, against Trump from a number of women -- you know, rape -- from a long period of time," Holder told Maher.
Fox News’ Tara Prindiville, Brooke Singman and Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this report.