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Monday, May 25, 2020

What are the sexual assault allegations against White House hopeful Joe Biden?

Known for his intimate campaign style, the Democratic presidential nominee's predisposition to hugging and physical touching has increasingly come under the scanner in the era of #MeToo as awareness on sexual assault has grown.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: April 29, 2020 3:40:56 pm
biden, joe biden, donald trump, trump, joe biden 2020 elections, joe biden stand for president 2020, us news, us elections, world news, indian express Former Vice President Joe Biden in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Even as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to consolidate support from his party members to take on US President Donald Trump, the former vice-president has faced growing calls to react to a sexual assault allegation against him by a former employee and other instances where he had inappropriately touched women.

Only last month, a former employee to Biden during his term in the Senate in the 90s, Tara Reade publicly alleged sexual harassment and assault against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. She alleged that Biden assaulted her inside the Capitol building in 1993 even as the White House hopeful’s campaign denied the incident and urged the media to investigate the matter. Biden is yet to respond to her allegation.

Known for his intimate campaign style, the Democratic presidential nominee’s predisposition to hugging and physical touching has increasingly come under the scanner in the era of #MeToo.

Read | Joe Biden jokes about hugging in a speech, then offers a mixed apology

Here is everything we know about the incidents and how Biden has responded to them:

Who is Tara Reade and what is her allegation against Biden?

Tara Reade, 56, worked for Joe Biden as his aide between 1992 and 1993 during his stint as the Senator for the US state of Delaware, as per The New York Times. And it was 1993 that Reade alleged she was assaulted by the Democratic presidential nominee. In one of her interviews, as reported by the BBC, she alleged Biden had forced her against the wall and touched her inappropriately.

Last month, in an interview to podcast host Katie Hapler and then in subsequent interviews, Reade claimed she was pinned against the wall by Biden as she was asked to get this gym bag. In another interview to the Associated Press, Reade was quoted as saying, “He was whispering to me and trying to kiss me at the same time, and he was saying, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?'” And then when she pulled away, as per Reade, Biden allegedly said to her, “Come on man, I heard you liked me.'”

On April 9, 2020, Reade filed a criminal complaint, alleging she was sexually assaulted but did not name Joe Biden in her statement to the police.

How has Joe Biden responded?

The White House hopeful’s campaign has vehemently denied the allegation and instead pointed towards his ongoing work in public life “trying to change the culture and laws around violence against women”.

Also Read | ‘I Get It’: Joe Biden promises respect for boundaries

In a statement to AP, his deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield was quoted as saying, “He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully. 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.”

Biden himself hasn’t yet spoken out publicly about the incident, and his campaign hasn’t provided any additional remarks as far as the recent news on Reade’s claim is concerned.

On her part, Reade has criticised the media for not pushing Biden enough to speak up on the issue.

Who are the other women who have accused Biden?

Over the last year, at least eight other women, including Reade, have recalled instances where Biden inappropriately kissed, hugged, and touched them. Former Nevada legislator Lucy Flores’ allegation came out earlier this month in which she accused Biden of kissing and touching her.

Later, as per the New York Times, Biden acknowledged it and said he had shown “expressions of affection” to people during his years on the campaign trail, but maintained that “not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately”.

Following this, when Senator Bernie Sanders was asked on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’, he was quoted by the NYT as saying, “I have no reason not to believe Lucy.” And when he was asked if the claim was enough to disqualify Biden from the presidential race, he said in the same show, “I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make. I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”

Flores first levelled her allegations in an article that was published in New York magazine’s The Cut. She said, as per the NYT, that when Biden campaigned for her and other Democrats that year, he put his hands on her shoulders and gave “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head.

Earlier this month, Biden addressed the issues surrounding him in what seems to be a homemade video, in which he laid out his opinion on connecting with voters, emotionally and physically, and also promising to be “be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”

“In my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection — that’s my responsibility, I think,” said Biden, as quoted by the NYT. “I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say, ‘You can do this.'”
He added, “Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying.”

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