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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., became the latest high-profile Democrat to endorse Joe Biden for her party’s presidential nomination Monday even as an allegation of sexual assault haunts the former vice president’s campaign.
Yet Pelosi’s scant comments on the claim stand in marked contrast to her vocal opposition to the nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.
The House speaker at the time had accused Republicans of seeking to cover up any past discretions by Kavanaugh by limiting an FBI investigation into the decades-old sexual misconduct allegations against him. She also voiced her support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse him of sexual assault during his youth.
“Courageous women risked their safety and well-being to speak truth about this nomination,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination. “Tens of thousands more joined them to share their own harrowing stories of sexual assault, at great personal risk.
She added: “Senate Republicans chose to send a clear message to all women: do not speak out, and if you do – do not expect to be heard, believed or respected.”
Pelosi also announced that she was filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the “transcripts of interviews, instructions from the White House, and any communications to the FBI from Senate Republicans regarding the scope of the investigation” – adding that these documents were “important to set the record straight.”
Pelosi is just one of many leading Democrats who have either not commented on or downplayed the claim by Tara Reade, a former aide to Biden when he was a senator from Delaware, that he sexually assaulted her in the early 1990s. The campaign vehemently denies the accusation.
The House speaker told MSNBC on April 17 that she is satisfied with Biden’s denial of the claims, but has not said much else.
“Yes, I am. I am very much involved in this issue. I always want to give the opportunity that women deserve to be heard. I am satisfied with his answer, yes,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has not commented on the allegation against Biden, and neither have most of the women considered to be on Biden’s shortlist for vice presidential picks or the Democratic National Committee.
Reade’s story first resurfaced in an article in The Intercept, where she claimed that in 1993, she was asked by a more senior member of Biden’s staff to bring the then-senator his gym bag near the Capitol building, which led to the encounter in question. She then was interviewed by podcast host Katie Halper.
“He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing,” Reade told Halper. “There was no like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
Reade said that she was wearing “a business skirt,” but “wasn’t wearing stockings—it was a hot day.”
She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”
Over the weekend, a video emerged from 1993 in which a woman Reade says is her mother appears to allude to the accusation during an interview with CNN’s Larry King.
In the broadcast, the caller does not mention sexual assault, or the specific details of Reade’s claim, but asks the following question to the panel: “I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.”
Reade has said that the woman’s voice is that of Jeanette Altimus, her late mother.
Democrats have largely tiptoed around the case.
“Governor Whitmer believes that it is important that these allegations are vetted, from the media to beyond and that it is something that no one takes lightly,” a spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Fox News on Saturday. “But it is also something that is personal. We will not speculate or provide greater insight, without knowing more about the situation.”
“[I]n this case — and your listeners should look at the story — there was a thorough review by The New York Times. And I think that’s very important to have, especially involving public figures,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in an appearance on NPR. “But I think when I look at — when I see Vice President Biden, someone I worked with, I see him on — a leader on domestic abuse — led the bill before people were even willing to talk about those horrific crimes and has really been a champion of abuses of power against women and has used his voice on the domestic abuse front in such a big way.”
Both Whitmer and Klobuchar are considered potential vice presidential picks for Biden. Fox News over the weekend reached out to Whitmer, Klobuchar and 14 other women who have been rumored to be on the shortlist for Biden’s vice presidential pick to ask for comment on the new developments in the story. Whitmer’s office was the only one to respond.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson and Gregg Re contributed to this report.