Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), one of Congress’s most vocal supporters of the #MeToo movement, said Tuesday that she stands by former Vice President Joe Biden, who has remained silent about a sexual assault allegation from former Senate staffer Tara Reade.
“I stand by Vice President Biden,” Gillibrand, who dropped out of the Democrat presidential primary in August, replied when asked about the allegation on a conference call. “He’s devoted his life to supporting women and he has vehemently denied this allegation.”
Notable: @SenGillibrand asked today on a conference call about Tara Reade allegations of assault by @JoeBiden. She says, “I stand by Vice President Biden. He’s devoted his life to supporting women and he has vehemently denied this allegation.” Per @JulieNBCNews
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) April 28, 2020
In an interview with the AP, Reade detailed a 1993 encounter that she says occurred when she was asked by a supervisor to bring Biden his gym bag, as he was on his way down to the Senate gymnasium. She says Biden pushed her against a wall in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building, groped her, and penetrated her with his fingers.
“He was whispering to me and trying to kiss me at the same time, and he was saying, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’” she said. “I remember wanting to say stop, but I don’t know if I said it out loud or if I just thought it. I was kind of frozen up.”
Reade said that she pulled away and Biden looked “shocked and surprised,” and replied, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.”
Reade, who was a staff assistant in Biden’s office at the time, said she wasn’t aware of any direct witnesses to the encounter.
Gillibrand’s defense of Biden is notable as she called on then-Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct in 2018. When asked about possible comebacks for Franken and journalist Mark Halperin over the summer, the New York Democrat said that the United States is a country of second chances.
“Anyone who wants a second chance, it’s always there for everyone,” she said. “We’re a country that believes in second chances.”
Gillibrand also said she believed the sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh leveled by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. “I believe her,” she told MSNBC in September 2018. “Her story is credible. If you listen to everything about it, the fact that she told her therapist about it five years ago.”
Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, issued a statement earlier this month denying Reade’s allegations, though Biden himself has not addressed them.
“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. 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,” said Bedingfield.
On Monday, Business Insider reported that Lynda LaCasse, a former neighbor to Reade, said the two discussed her alleged allegation against the former vice president between 1995 and 1996.
“I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him,” LaCasse told the news outlet. “And he kind of put her up against a wall. And he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her. She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn’t feel there was anything she could do.”
“She was crying,” LaCasse continued. “She was upset. And the more she talked about it, the more she started crying. I remember saying that she needed to file a police report.”
“I don’t remember all the details,” she added. “I remember the skirt. I remember the fingers. I remember she was devastated.”
LaCasse, who supports Biden for the White House, is the first person to corroborate Reade’s allegations.
In addition to LaCasse, Lorraine Sanchez, an ex-legislative staffer to California State Senator Jack O’Connell, told Business Insider that Reade complained in the mid-90s about being “sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC.”
“What I do remember,” Sanchez explained “is reassuring her that nothing like that would ever happen to her here in our office, that she was in a safe place, free from any sexual harassment.”
Sanchez said Reade was referring to Biden.
The AP contributed to this report.