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Joe Biden should drop out of presidential race, accuser Tara Reade says

Tara Reade poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press in Nevada City, Calif., on April 4, 2019. (Donald Thompson / AP)
Tara Reade poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press in Nevada City, Calif., on April 4, 2019. (Donald Thompson / AP)
By Matt Fountain Tribune News Service

A Northern California woman who has alleged that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 says that Biden should “stand up” and “step down” from the 2020 race.

Tara Reade, a former staffer of then-Sen. Biden, made the comments to the San Luis Obispo Tribune after Biden addressed the accusations publicly on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I would say stand up and take full account for what you’ve done and for your past treatment of women,” Reade said in a phone interview Friday afternoon, when asked what she would like to say to her former boss. “He holds himself up as a champion of women, but the fact remains that his personal life did not reflect his public life.”

“I want him to address it, and admit it, and modify his behavior, and step down,” she added.

Reade said she had not seen Biden’s MSNBC interview and declined to comment directly on his statement.

Reade, 56, grew up in Monterey County and lived in Morro Bay where she had family in the 1990s before and after the alleged assault, and in addition to Biden’s office, also worked as a staffer to former Central Coast state Sen. Jack O’Connell.

Biden’s campaign has denied the allegations, and the 77-year-old former vice president addressed the issue for the first time this week.

“No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened. And it didn’t,” Biden told MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.

In 1993, Reade says, Biden pushed her up against a wall in a semi-private hallway, reached under her skirt, and digitally penetrated her with his fingers.

Reade first made the allegation publicly to podcaster Katie Halper in March, roughly a year after being one of eight women to accuse Biden of unwanted and inappropriate – but not sexual – touching.

A former neighbor from Morro Bay told the publication last week that she recalls Reade telling her about the incident a year or so after it allegedly occurred and a recently surfaced video clip appears to show Reade’s mother calling in to CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 1993 and alluding to her daughter’s allegation.

But other former Biden staffers and acquaintances of Reade’s have disputed or said they don’t recall her claims.

A complaint Reade says she submitted to the Senate at the time has not been located, and she told the Associated Press on Friday that her complaint did not explicitly accuse Biden of sexual assault or harassment.

The contradictory statements and speculation over Reade’s political leanings and motivations have led Biden supporters, including prominent Democratic officials, to question her credibility.

“By coming forward, I’ve faced a great deal of difficulty,” Reade said. “But I have withstood it because I really want my child’s generation to experience something better.”

Following his MSNBC interview, the hashtags #IBelieveJoe and #TaraReadeIsALiar were trending on Twitter. So was #IBelieveTara.

Reade said coming forward with her allegations has exposed a partisan divide when it comes to allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful or popular men, especially when those men claim to be allies against misogyny and sexual misconduct.

“I have friends that are Republicans, Democrats, independents; they range on the political spectrum,” she said. “What’s sad about my bringing forth my history with Joe Biden is that it’s being presented in almost a partisan way. And it’s almost like I’m being blamed by people – they’re angry that I’m here because they just want to vote for Joe Biden and have a clear conscience.”

Reade includes among those House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who have publicly come out in support of Biden.

Reade added many who were at the forefront of the #MeToo movement are now “contorting themselves to push Biden through.” She said it is painful to watch.

“Domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, they are not partisan issues,” Reade said. “There are survivors with all types of political ideologies, and we need to move the conversation forward to really look at our institutionalized rape culture.”

Former Biden staffer Tara Reade’s mother called into the Larry King Live show in 1993 and discussed her daughter’s time with a “prominent senator.”

A former neighbor of Reade’s who recently told Business Insider that Reade shared the assault with her shortly afterwards, also told the newspaper that she intends to vote for the former vice president. Reade, who describes herself as a progressive and formerly a lifelong Democrat, said she respects her friend’s choice.

“I don’t want to be part of telling people how to vote,” she said. “That’s a very personal decision.”

Reade said she will never vote Republican, and plans to not vote for any presidential candidate in November.

She noted President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women.

“The fact that we have two men running for the highest office in the land, both with a history of misogyny and sexual misconduct, says more about our culture than anything,” she said.

Asked about what she wants from Biden, she said “nothing.”

“There is nothing. It should have been done in 1993,” she said. “We’re kind of beyond repair at this point.”

Acknowledging that any criminal or civil statutes for the alleged assault would have long since expired, Reade said she’s not motivated by anything “other than a way to bring forth my story in a dignified way and then move on and heal.”

Calling herself a “politically inconvenient woman,” Reade hopes the conversation about gender-based sexual violence will continue that after the presidential election is over.

“Eventually when the dust settles, we’ll get to the real issue. Which is how our culture deals with survivors coming forward when it’s a powerful person,” she said.

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