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Stacey Abrams: 'I Believe Joe Biden' on Sexual Assault Allegation

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) -- Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Tuesday night that she believes the denial by former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign regarding one time staffer Tara Reade's allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

"I believe that women deserve to be heard and I believe they need to be listened to, but I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources," Abrams, who has made a public and direct pitch to be Biden's running mate, told CNN's Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight."

"The New York Times did a deep investigation and they found that the accusation was not credible. I believe Joe Biden."

Her comments come as Reade's allegation gains new attention while Biden -- now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee -- prepares to take on President Donald Trump in the general election. The Times report that Abrams referred to did not determine whether Reade's allegation was credible.

In a statement previously provided to CNN, Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, denied Reade's allegation, calling it "untrue."

"Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard - and heard respectfully," Bedingfield said. "Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."

Reade previously told CNN that in 1993, when she was working as an aide in Biden's Senate office, she was asked to deliver a duffel bag to him. In a corridor somewhere in the Capitol Hill complex, Reade said, Biden "had me up against the wall; he used his knee to spread open my legs" and "put his fingers inside me."

Reade said that when she pulled away, Biden said to her, "Come on, man. I heard -- I thought you liked me." He then looked angry, according to Reade, and said, "You are nothing to me. You are nothing." She said that Biden eventually took her by the shoulders and said words to the effect of "You're OK. You're fine," before walking away.

Abrams said Tuesday, "I know Joe Biden and I think he's telling the truth and that this did not happen."

Still, for some of Biden's supporters and surrogates, questions related to Reade's allegation have presented a challenging balancing act -- of expressing support for Biden's candidacy and character while not dismissing a sexual assault allegation.

Asked if the Biden campaign should address the allegations directly, Abrams said, "I believe his campaign has been very clear. And I believe that that is the approach that they intend to take, and I support the approach because, again, we don't want women to ever be afraid to come forward."

"But we also have to recognize that allegations should be investigated and that those investigations need to be borne out," she said.

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