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Tara Reade calls on Biden to drop out in new interview and responds to skeptics

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Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993, called on the former vice president to "step forward and be held accountable" and expressed a desire for Biden to drop out of the presidential race.

"I want to say: 'You and I were there, Joe Biden, please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States,'" Reade told former Fox News and NBC News host Megyn Kelly, in an interview which is being released on social media.

Reade worked as a staffer in Biden's Senate office in the early 1990s. She has accused Biden of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Biden has denied these allegations. In her interview with Kelly, Reade went into more detail, though she was still uncertain about the precise location of the assault she alleges.

"I remember going down the Russell building floors, and so I don't know if I was in the first floor or the basement but there's corridors that lead to the Capitol and that kind of thing," Reade said. It was a weekday, she affirmed to Kelly. She said that when she caught up with Biden, he greeted her by name, and she handed him the forgotten gym bag. In fact, as she was "being pushed up against the wall," Reade said she remembered thinking, "where's the bag?"

She went on to say, "I was handing it to him. And, ah, he had his hands, under, underneath my clothes....He had one hand underneath my shirt. And the other hand, I had a skirt on, and he like went down my skirt and then went up and I remember, I was up almost on my tippy toes. And, um when he went inside the skirt he was talking to me at the same time."

Reade claimed he was "leaning into" her and "kissing my neck area" and whispered, did I want to go somewhere else, in a low voice. He said some other things. I can't remember everything he said." She told Kelly he said something "vulgar" to her. Kelly asked what he said.

"He — he said, 'I want to f*** you.' And he said it low, and I was pushing away and I remember my knee hurting.  Because our knees, he had opened my legs with his knee and our knees caps clashed, so I felt like this sharp pain. His fingers were inside of my private area, my vagina, and um, it wasn't, there was no small talk." 

"In that moment, I knew that this was really bad," Reade said. "I knew it was more than just the assault. It was really bad. He was then angry. And I could feel. It wasn't like yelling angry. But that hostility filled. And he pulled back. He pointed his finger at me, and he said, 'You're nothing to me. You're nothing.'"

During the interview, Kelly also asked Reade about some of the apparent contradictions in her comments about Biden in the past few years.

"You liked online praise for Joe Biden and his work combating sexual assault. There was a compliment you tweeted about him saying, 'My old boss speaks truth.'" Kelly noted. "Listen. It is true that women do sometimes praise men who have sexually harassed or abused them. But, why would you — but why would you publicly praise Joe Biden for actions on sexual assault when you claim that is what he did to you?"

Reade told Kelly, "I've always been conflicted about Joe Biden."

"And by that time, right around 2017, I was still kind of wondering if that was a unique," she continued. She explained that "putting myself out professionally and wanting to be out in the world, I didn't want to talk badly about him. And I wasn't ready to tell my history with Joe Biden at that point at all."

Asked whether she had been "politically motivated" in accusing Biden, since she supported Marianne Williamson and Bernie Sanders in 2020, Reade first said, "No," and then added, "Maybe I'll take that back — everything's political, right? But this is deeper than that."

"This is about watching the person that assaulted me be elevated to the highest office in the land. He's running on a platform of character, and I just, I found that gross," Reade said. 

She told Kelly that she wished the presumptive Democratic nominee would end his presidential campaign: "I wish he would, but he won't. But I wish he would."

Reade criticized Biden's campaign for "hypocrisy," accusing his campaign surrogates of attacking her, although she did not name them, and said that she had been accused of being a Russian agent and received death threats from Biden supporters. She has in the past praised Russian President Putin, writing a Medium post in which she said he was a "compassionate, caring, visionary leader," while Americans are "on the wrong side of history."

Biden hasn't threatened her "himself," Reade said, "but there is a measure of hypocrisy with the campaign saying it's been safe. It's not been safe." She continued, "I mean, these are serious things and his campaign is taking this position that they want all women to be able to speak safely, I have not experienced that."

Reade also said she would be willing to testify about her experiences under oath, but bristled when asked by Kelly if she would be willing to take a polygraph test.

"I'm not a criminal. Joe Biden should take the polygraph. What kinda of precedent does that set for survivors of violence. Does that mean we are presumed guilty? And we all have to take polygraphs? I will take one if Joe Biden takes one. But I'm not a criminal," she said.

After Reade's interview, Biden again denied any assault had occurred. 

"Nothing ever happened with Tara Reade," he said in an interview with Florida TV station Bay 9 after a "virtual" rally in Tampa Thursday. "Believing women means taking a woman's claim seriously when she steps forward and then vetting it, looking into it."

"Women have a right to be heard and the press should rigorously investigate claims like these," Biden said. "I'll always uphold that principle, but in the end in every case the truth is what matters. And in this case the truth is these claims are flat out false. False."

Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield also released a statement saying, "Every day, more and more inconsistencies arise."

"Women must receive the benefit of the doubt. They must be able to come forward and share their stories without fear of retribution or harm - and we all have a responsibility to ensure that," Bedingfield said in her statement, "At the same time, we can never sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that these allegations are false and that the material that has been presented to back them up, under scrutiny, keeps proving their falsity."

Reade has said she did file a complaint with the Senate at one point, though she does not have it. Last week, Biden requested that the secretary of the Senate search for a record of that complaint. However, after consulting the Senate legal counsel, the secretary of the Senate said that under the statute governing the Senate Fair Employment Practices, Biden's request would be denied.

But the form, if it emerges, will not include her allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her, Reade told CBS News earlier this week. She said she stopped short of describing the assault, but said the complaint details allegations of sexual harassment against Biden and workplace retaliation. Reade said she described Biden's "inappropriate behavior" that made her "uncomfortable," including how he wanted her to served drinks at a party because "he told people he liked my legs." 

Reade says she put her contact information on the form, but the office never followed up with her complaint. 

CBS News has spoken with Reade multiple times since she first accused him of sexually assaulting her. She is the only individual who has come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

In April 2019, she told the California newspaper The Union that "he used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck. I would just kind of freeze and wait for him to stop doing that. The paper also reported, "Reade said she didn't consider the acts [by Biden] toward her sexualization. She instead compared her experience to being a lamp," a piece of furniture to be moved around. "'Then when it's too bright, you throw it away,'" Reade said.

There has been some more recent corroboration that Reade first alleged the assault in the 1990s. A former neighbor of Reade's in the 90s, Lynda LaCasse, told CBS News she remembers Reade telling her around 1995 or 1996 about an assault by Biden, a detail first reported by Business Insider.

Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, also told CBS News he remembers Reade saying Biden put his hand "under her clothes," but his account has evolved since he  spoke to ABC News in March, when he said he was aware of workplace harassment. He also said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that in 1993, Reade had told him that Biden had inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders. Several days later, he texted the Post to say that he recalled Reade had told him Biden had put his hand "'under her clothing.'"

But more recently, others have said Reade only spoke positively about her previous work in Biden's office. Lynn Hummer, who operates a California horse rescue where Reade volunteered for a few years, told CBS News Reade wore her experience in Biden's office like a "feather in her cap." Hummer also questioned Reade's truthfulness.

The New York Times interviewed Reade's former colleagues, who did not remember any complaints from Reade about the kind of behavior from Biden she describes now.

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