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Biden addresses Tara Reade allegations: 'They aren't true. This never happened.'

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE on Friday for the first time publicly denied allegations from a former staffer who says the then-senator sexually assaulted her.

“They aren’t true,” Biden said. “This never happened.”

Tara Reade, who managed the intern program for Biden’s Senate office in 1993, last month alleged publicly that Biden had sexually assaulted her in an empty corridor on Capitol Hill. She previously had accused him of inappropriate touching.

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In a statement, and then in a lengthy and at-times uncomfortable interview with MSNBC’s Mika BrzezinskiMika Emilie BrzezinskiScarborough: Putin more likely to take tough question than Trump Pennsylvania AG on Trump's mail-in voting attacks: 'He's just trying to create chaos' Mika Brzezinski: 'Super grossed out' by Trump speech attendees 'who put their lives at risk' MORE, Biden pointed to what he described as “inconsistencies” in Reade’s story, saying that her telling of what happened had “changed repeatedly in both small and big ways."

Reade has said that she notified three of Biden’s senior aides about his touching at the time: Then-chief of staff Ted Kaufman, adviser Dennis Toner and Marianne Baker, an executive assistant. All three have gone on the record to say that Reade did not confront them about the issue.

“She has said she raised some of these issues with her supervisor and senior staffers from my office at the time,” Biden said in the statement. “They — both men and a woman — have said, unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues. News organizations that have talked with literally dozens of former staffers have not found one — not one — who corroborated her allegations in any way. 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.”

 

A woman who was Reade’s neighbor in the 1990s came forward this week to say that Reade told her about the allegations of assault at the time. Reade’s brother has also said Reade told him that Biden “had his hand under her clothes at some point.”

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Biden was not asked about the corroborating testimony.

But the interview on MSNBC will likely spark a new battle over Biden’s Senate records, which are being housed at the University of Delaware. The school says it will not release the records until two years after Biden has retired from public life.

Reade says she filed a complaint with the Senate’s human resources department about Biden’s behavior at the time, but media outlets have not been able to track it down. Reade says she believes it is in Biden’s archives at the University of Delaware. The school, however, will not make the archives public for several years. 

Biden on Friday said that if a complaint exists, it would be at the National Archives, and he called on the secretary of the archives to “identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document.”

However, under repeated questioning from Brzezinski, Biden repeatedly refused to authorize the University of Delaware to make the records public or to even run a search for Reade’s name within the files.

Biden insisted that if a complaint exists, it would not be kept there. And he worried that making the documents public would give fodder to his critics to distort his record.

“The fact is that there’s a lot of things of speeches I’ve made, interviews I did overseas with people, all those things related to my job, the idea they’d all be made public while I was running for  public office, they could be taken out of context," Biden said. “They’re position papers, they’re documents that existed and that when I met with Putin or whoever, all that could be fodder in a campaign at this time. I don’t know anyone who has done anything like that.”

The other aspect of the interview where Biden struggled centered around the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughBarrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Clarence Thomas set to swear in Barrett at White House MORE, who was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of a sexual assault that allegedly took places decades ago.

Many Democrats, including Biden, said that all women should be believed and approached the claims against Kavanaugh with a presumption of his guilt.

Brzezinski on Friday read Biden’s own statement back to him, in which he said: “You’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”

“Look, from the very beginning, I’ve said that believing women means taking the woman’s claim seriously,” Biden said. “When she steps forward and then vet it, look into it. That’s true in this case as well. Women have a right to be heard, and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I’ll always uphold that principle. But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And in this case the truth is the claims are false.”

The fact that Biden is addressing the allegations made against him in mid-March may relieve some pressure on his campaign, which had seen allies asked questions about Reade in the last week.

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However, Biden’s refusal to make his Senate records public will likely be an enduring issue for his campaign. Republicans have also argued there is a double standard in how Democrats and the media have treated the Kavanaugh and Biden stories, and that narrative is likely to continue to get attention.

Reade will appear on Fox News Sunday this weekend to discuss her claims.

Shortly before officially launching his presidential bid, Reade and several other women came forward to say that Biden had made them uncomfortable by touching them inappropriately at public events.

Biden has said his actions were innocent displays of public affection, but he acknowledged that times have changed and said he would adjust his behavior.

Reade is the only woman to accuse Biden of sexual assault.

“As a Presidential candidate, I’m accountable to the American people,” Biden said. “We have lived long enough with a President who doesn’t think he is accountable to anyone, and takes responsibility for nothing. That’s not me. I believe being accountable means having the difficult conversations, even when they are uncomfortable. People need to hear the truth.”

Biden is leading a number of national polls against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE, who has also faced various allegations of harassment and assault from multiple women. Several swing-state polls in Michigan, Arizona and Florida have also had Biden ahead of Trump.

Updated at 9:14 a.m.