Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Accused of Sexual Assault BY ELIZABETH BRATTON & SUJANNYA RATHINAM

April 4 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently on the path to securing the democratic presidential nomination after amassing huge wins in recent primary states. However, Biden has come under fire due to a series of sexual misconduct claims, as well as Tara Reade’s recent allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

In 2019, there were 8 different accusations of inappropriate behavior regarding Joe Biden. One of them was that of Lucy Flores, former Nevada assemblywoman. She claimed that former Joe Biden had touched her shoulders, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head during a Democratic campaign rally in 2014. After this, Tara Reade, Biden’s former staffer, came forward and said that Biden had “touched her several times, making her feel uncomfortable.” She also claimed that Biden had wanted her to serve drinks at an event because she had “nice legs.”

However, she has since increased the severity of her allegation from harassment to assault. In one of Katie Halper’s podcast episodes, released on March 26, Reade alleged that Biden had sexually assaulted her when she was working as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office. In the podcast, she said that one day, she was asked to bring an athletic bag to Biden. After passing him the bag, Reade allegedly remembers how he put his hands on her “and underneath [her] clothes,” as “ he went down [her] skirt but then up inside it, and he penetrated [her] with his fingers”

After Reade pulled away, she recalled him angrily exclaiming: “Come on man, I heard you liked me”, before pointing his finger at her and saying, “You’re nothing to me’. He then allegedly grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “You’re okay, you’re fine” before walking away. Reade mentioned that this incident changed her entire perception of Biden, saying she had previously “looked up to him as a champion of women’s rights.” Afterwards, Reade claims to have been placed in a windowless office, where her duties in the Senate were significantly reduced, which she believes was an implication of what happened. Reade also added that she filed an official report after the incident, although she is unsure as to what became of it.

Additionally, she mentioned that a huge reason as to why she did not reveal the full story earlier was due to her treatment by the media and the public upon her 2018 allegation of inappropriate touching. She said that the “way she was being questioned” made her extremely uncomfortable. Reade added that she had agreed to speak to a local reporter about the incident, however, before the article had even been published, she began receiving death threats, as well as threatening calls in the middle of the night. Furthemore, her initial claims caused her to be smeared as a Russian asset who was doing the bidding of Vladmir Putin, due to previous comments where she spoke favourably of the Russian president.

However, she soon decided that she could not remain silent, regardless of the potential consequences. “We need to stop thinking that because someone’s powerful, we can’t speak out,” she said.

In January, Reade approached the organization ‘Time’s Up,’ hoping to share her story. The group was established in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and aims to spread awareness about sexual assault survivors and their experiences. The ‘Time’s Up’ legal defense fund is in place to help with the legal costs of sexual assault/harassment cases, particularly for low wage workers who had little to no influence or power. In fact, the group has committed over $10 million to help fund such cases. Hoping to be provided with the same support, Reade reached out to the organization for legal aid. In February, however, she became aware that the association would be of little help to her, as the allegations were against a candidate for federal office. It was explained to Reade that, by providing her with support, ‘Time’s Up’ could be risking their status as a nonprofit organization. Others have noted that the Public Relations firm that represents ‘Time’s Up’ is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director is Anita Dunn. Dunn is also the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.

Reade herself was concerned about the influence her story could have on the election, explaining that Trump is someone she perceives as a significantly worse candidate than Biden. She explained, “I don’t want to help Trump. But what can I do?” emphasizing: “All I can do is stand on my truth.”

Biden has explicitly denied all the allegations against him, and his press team has released two statements in response to the claims. Firstly, Communications Director Kate Bedingfield argued: “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.” Secondly, Marianne Baker, former executive assistant to Biden, stated: “In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone. I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager. These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”

In 2018, amidst the Brett Kavanaugh trial, Biden made headlines after saying that all women should be believed when they report sexual assault. In an interview with the Washington Post, he explained: "For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you've got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she's talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it's been made worse or better over time.”

Mainstream media has been heavily criticized due to its overwhelming silence on the issue, with Vox and The Guardian being two of the very few mainstream media outlets to have covered it.

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