Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the US presidential election, is facing growing calls to respond to a former aide’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her nearly 30 years ago, a claim Biden’s campaign has denied.
Tara Reade, who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office between December 1992 and August 1993, has accused Biden of pinning her against a wall in 1993 and reaching under her shirt and skirt.
Biden’s campaign has said the incident never occurred. Biden himself has not addressed the allegation, and the former vice president has not been questioned on the matter in recent interviews with national and local media.
Two more women corroborated part of Reade’s allegation in interviews with the Business Insider news website.
A Biden campaign spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday about the new sources or calls for Biden to respond.
Reuters news agency has not been able to independently confirm Reade’s allegation and was also unable to reach Reade or a representative for comment.
The New York Times newspaper said in a statement on Wednesday an investigation it conducted of the matter “made no conclusion either way.”
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an influential liberal Democrat said during an online forum this week that Reade’s accusation deserved a fair examination.
Nina Turner, who was national campaign co-chair for Biden’s former White House rival, Bernie Sanders, told Reuters on Wednesday that Biden has to answer the question.
“It can’t appear that she’s being ignored just because it’s an inconvenient truth for certain people in the Democratic Party,” Turner said.
The Washington Post newspaper editorial board on Wednesday called on Biden, 77, to speak about the allegations and release papers from the relevant period, when he was a senator from Delaware, in case those documents might include a complaint Reade has said she filed over the incident.
Several prominent women on Biden’s vice-presidential shortlist, such as Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and former Georgia state Representative Stacey Abrams, have stood by Biden. So has Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, another former presidential candidate, who has made aiding victims of sexual assault a centrepiece of her political career.
President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has increasingly tried to turn the allegations into a liability for Biden. In a memo to the media on Wednesday, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Biden was seeking to shield himself from criticism by avoiding personally addressing Reade’s allegation.
Trump, 73, has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault and misconduct over the years, including during the 2016 campaign. He and his aides have denied the allegations.
Reade, 56, was one of eight women who last year came forward to say Biden had hugged, kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, though none accused him of sexual assault. She publicly accused him of the assault on a podcast in March.
At the time of the women’s statements last year about behaviour that made them uncomfortable, Biden, who had yet to launch his presidential bid, released a video promising to be “much more mindful” of people’s personal space.
During an online fundraising event on Wednesday night, Biden touted his work in getting the Violence Against Women Act passed, as well as his efforts to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.
“Look, we have to change the culture of abuse in this country, especially in armed services,” Biden said in response to a question about the issue of sexual assault that did not refer to Reade’s allegations.
“I will order the Defense Department to take urgent and aggressive action to make sure survivors are in fact supported and abusers are held accountable for their crimes,” he added.