What we learned in Tara Reade's interview with Megyn Kelly about the Biden assault claim
WASHINGTON — Tara Reade, who accused former Vice President Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in the early 1990s, told Megyn Kelly that the alleged incident "changed everything about my life."
In her first on-camera interview since Biden denied her allegation, Reade sat down with the former Fox News host for a 42-minute conversation to discuss the impacts the alleged assault has had on her, accusations about her credibility, and motivations for coming forward.
The interview was produced by Rich McHugh, who was Ronan Farrow's producer at NBC News during his investigation into the assault claims that toppled Harvey Weinstein. Before leaving Fox News, Kelly was among a half dozen other women who accused founder and former CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.
The presumptive Democratic nominee has flatly denied Reade's claim. "This never, ever happened," Biden said on MSNBC on May 1. "I don't know what is motivating her. ... But it's irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened. Period."
Here's some of what Reade said:
Reade called on Biden to be "held accountable," but noted it was "a little late" for an apology from him in a preview of the interview released on Thursday.
"That should've happened in 1993," she said.
"I wish he would (withdraw from the race)," Reade said. "But he won't. But I wish he would. That's how I feel emotionally."
Reade was asked about the comparison being made between her case and that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation in 2018. Reade said she would "absolutely" be willing to go under oath and be cross-examined.
As for a polygraph test, Reade questioned the standard it would set for sexual assault survivors if they were all asked to take polygraphs.
"I'm not a criminal. Joe Biden should take the polygraph," she said. "I will take one if Joe Biden takes one. "
Reade described the alleged encounter with Biden from the spring of 1993 and said that it had a profound effect on her life going forward.
She accused Biden of assaulting her in a Capitol Hill building, where she says he held her against a wall, reached under her clothes and digitally penetrated her without consent. Reade, who worked for Biden as an aide when he was a U.S. senator, said she recalls that when she pulled away he told her, "Come on, man, I heard you liked me."
"My mind was racing. In that moment I knew this was really bad. I knew it was more than just the assault, it was really bad," Reade told Kelly. She described Biden appearing angry.
"He pointed his finger at me and said, 'You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing,'" Reade said. "I think that’s the hardest thing, and I know people talk about the assault, but his words, those words stayed with me my whole life.
"I don’t really care if people believe it or not. I’ve had to live with it. And it’s just one of those things that’s impacted and shattered my life, it changed everything about my life," she said.
Reade has said she complained of sexual harassment, not an assault, to multiple supervisors in Biden's office at the time. Employees interviewed by The New York Times denied ever having had those conversations. Reade also said she filed a report with a Senate personnel office but does not have a copy. After Biden called on the National Archives to release any such record, the secretary of the Senate said such a complaint cannot be disclosed.
She accused his staffers of being "complicit" in her interview with Kelly: "Their job was to cover what he did. There are people that have enabled and allowed his behavior to continue."
Multiple people who say Reade told them about some or all of her claim have come forward to corroborate her story, including a former neighbor who said Reade described the alleged assault to her in 1995 or 1996.
A 1996 court document obtained by the Tribune in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and reported on Thursday reveals that Reade's husband at the time, Theodore Dronen, said Reade told him about "a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment, in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office." The document does not say who committed the harassment, nor does it include details of assault.
Reade had previously said that her motivation for coming forward was not political. In her interview with Kelly, she addressed concerns about her credibility and amended that statement: "I think everything's political."
"But this is deeper than that," Reade went on. "This is about watching the person that assaulted me be elevated to the highest office of the land."
"My end game is basically telling my story in a dignified way, not being torn apart and it’s being able to move on with my life and heal," Reade said.
Though Reade has said in past interviews she previously supported Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president, she said she is not trying to "help Donald Trump win." But she criticized the reactions of some in the Democratic Party and said she now considers herself "politically homeless," not a member of either major party.
"We can come forward, unless it's a Democrat? Is that the message we're sending?" Reade said.
"You don’t have to discredit or not believe me to vote for Joe Biden," Reade said. "I even have friends or family that are still voting for Joe Biden, because that’s what they're doing."
Reade said she began considering telling her full story about her experience with Biden soon after her first media interviews in April 2019 and began reaching out to members of the media and politicians that summer.
In 2019, Reade was one of several women who went public with stories of Biden touching them inappropriately or in ways that made them uncomfortable. She has said she did not discuss her assault allegation at the time because she was worried about the backlash she would receive.
She told Kelly she was discouraged by questions from a reporter.
"The first question that was asked of me was, 'Well, it wasn’t sexual was it?' And that’s all it took. I was so lacking in courage," Reade said.
'This never happened':Joe Biden denies sexual assault allegation, calls on National Archives to release records
What we know:Former staffer Tara Reade says Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993
Starting sometime in the summer of 2019, she says she began reaching back out to reporters who had interviewed her but didn't get responses. She then tried to reach politicians, she said, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
"I tried to reach out to them, yes, I did. Kamala Harris is my representative, so I tried to reach out to her in particular for help. I wanted to get a safe place to tell what happened," Reade said. "I didn't get a response."
USA TODAY has reached out to Warren's office. A senior adviser for Harris, Sabrina Singh, said that "we have no record of any request."
Biden's campaign has pointed to his years of work related to combating violence against women and has said the media should investigate allegations of sexual assault. The campaign said there were "inconsistencies" in her story.
Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager, cited reports from the Associated Press and Vox that include resurfaced interview comments from 2019 when Reade first talked to reporters. Vox reported that an anonymous friend now recounts Reade's assault story but in 2019 said Biden "never tried to kiss her directly. He never went for one of those touches."
AP published her older quote, which she said before she had come forward with her assault claim: "I wasn’t scared of him, that he was going to take me in a room or anything. It wasn’t that kind of vibe."
"Every day, more and more inconsistencies arise. Women must receive the benefit of the doubt. They must be able to come forward and share their stories without fear of retribution or harm – and we all have a responsibility to ensure that," Bedingfield said. "At the same time, we can never sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that these allegations are false and that the material that has been presented to back them up, under scrutiny, keeps proving their falsity."