A sexual assault allegation against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that was largely ignored in the mainstream media when it surfaced last month is starting to attract more attention, earning long stories in both The New York Times and Washington Post in recent days — but prominent Democrats continue to stay silent on the story, including most of the women who have been discussed as potential vice presidential picks.
The Biden campaign adamantly denies the allegation, as does a former staff member in Biden’s Senate office from the time of the alleged incident.
Fox News on Tuesday reached out to the offices of 16 of the women who have been speculated about as possible Democratic vice presidential nominees, including Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as well as Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and several others. None responded as of Wednesday morning.
Only three of the potential picks have commented publicly on the allegations, all this week. And they generally avoided commenting on the allegations directly.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was asked about the allegations in an appearance on NPR Tuesday. She said women have the right to be heard and pointed to investigations by the media into the claims, while touting Biden’s past work on behalf of women.
“[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,” she said. “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.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on her endorsement of Biden Wednesday, noted that the “allegations are being aired publicly” while saying that she wanted to avoid commenting further until she had read more into the story.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, on NPR Tuesday, made similar comments.
“Well, I think women should be able to tell their stories,” Whitmer said, while noting the importance of vetting the allegations. She said “it’s hard to give you greater insight than that, not knowing more about the situation.”
Biden has been accused of sexual assault by a woman named Tara Reade, who was a staff assistant to Biden when he was a senator. Reade came forward early last year to say that Biden inappropriately touched her — as multiple women did around that time — but didn’t get much publicity for her story outside of a local newspaper article.
Also Sunday, former Sanders campaign National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray referred to Reade’s story as “[c]redible sexual assault allegations” as she listed off a number of issues she believed Sanders “generously” did not raise against Biden during the Democratic primary. She is one of a few scattered liberal voices who are advocating that the Reade allegation be taken seriously, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and liberal activist Rose McGowan.
“As a survivor, the way you launched into this woman’s assault is truly vile,” McGowan tweeted Sunday about the Washington Post story on the Reade allegations. “Your motto is ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ well I guess it’s dead because you are dark. Evil lives and it loves the DNC.”
“I think it’s legitimate to talk about these things,” Ocasio-Cortez said while speaking with the women’s organization The Wing on Tuesday night, according to CBS News. “And if we want, if we, again, want to have integrity, you can’t say, you know — both believe women, support all of this, until it inconveniences you, until it inconveniences us.”
President Trump, who has been the subject of his own sexual assault and harassment allegations in the past, has also not commented on the Reade accusations against Biden.
In addition to Harris, Warren, Demings and Yates, Fox News reached out to 12 other Democrats who have been speculated about as possible running mates for Biden, asking them for comment on the sexual assault allegations against the presumptive nominee.
Fox News reached out to Klobuchar; Whitmer; Baldwin; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams through her voter rights organization Fair Fight.