Allegations of sexual assault against Joe Biden may be harder to brush off than history of inappropriate behavior
The soon-to-be Democratic nominee for president has an iffy record when it comes to women and is likely to cost him when going against Trump
Following Bernie Sanders' withdrawal from the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, it is all but confirmed that Joe Biden will be butting heads against Donald Trump when the elections come around in November.
But the former vice president has recently found himself in uncharted territory -- territory that Trump has extensive experience navigating. Late in March, just before Sanders dropped out of the primaries, one of Biden's former Senate aides accused him of sexually assaulting her while she was working as a staff assistant at his office in 1993.
Tara Reade, in an interview with the New York Times, claimed that the assault happened in Spring that year when she had tracked down the then-Senator to deliver an athletic bag. She said he pushed her against a cold wall, started kissing her neck and hair, and propositioned her.
She said he then slipped his hands up her cream-colored blouse, used his knees to part her bare legs, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers.
"It happened at once. He’s talking to me and his hands are everywhere and everything is happening very quickly," she shared. "He was kissing me and he said, very low, 'Do you want to go somewhere else?’"
Reade said he stopped when she pulled away, but that he seemed "puzzled" and "shocked" that she rebuffed his advances.
"He said, 'Come on, man, I heard you liked me,'" she revealed. "He pointed his finger at me and he just goes: 'You’re nothing to me. Nothing.' Then, he took my shoulders and said, ‘You’re OK, you’re fine."
Reade said, following the incident, she filed a report with the Washington, D.C., police, as well as a written complaint to the Senate personnel office but that nothing came of it.
Last year, she had accused Biden of inappropriately behaving with her. In an interview with a local Nevada County paper, she claimed the 77-year-old "would touch me on the shoulder or hold his hand on my shoulder running his index finger up my neck during a meeting."
She also recounted an incident where she said his staff told her she would have to serve drinks at one of his events because he "liked my legs."
The allegations have been vehemently denied by Biden's campaign, with deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield saying, "What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."
She also pointed out that Biden had "dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women" and had been instrumental in passing the Violence Against Women Act.
The allegation is the most serious one to be made against the former vice president, who has been accused by numerous women of inappropriate behavior.
The metaphorical floodgates opened in March, 2019, when Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, wrote an essay in The Cut where she described her uncomfortable run-in with Biden when he came to one of her rallies to help her fledgling campaign for lieutenant governor of Nevada.
She said the then VP Biden, came close to her from behind, smelled her hair, and "proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head." She said she "couldn’t process what was happening" and was so "embarrassed" she wanted the Earth to swallow her whole.
"I couldn’t move and I couldn’t say anything," she wrote. "I wanted nothing more than to get Biden away from me."
After its publication, six other women came out to allege that Biden had either touched them inappropriately or violated their personal space in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.
Amy Stokes Lappos, a small business owner and Democratic political activist, said her run-in happened during a Greenwich, Connecticut fundraiser for Democratic Rep. Jim Himes in 2009. "He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth," she said.
She accused him of crossing a line and added, "There's absolutely a line of decency. There's a line of respect. Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It's not cultural. It's not affection. It's sexism or misogyny."
Another was Sofie Karasek, who was photographed holding hands and touching heads with him at the 2016 Academy Awards in what many felt was a powerful moment. Karasek, who had been on stage as one of the dozens of sexual assault survivors called as Lady Gaga performed 'Til It Happens To You,' said she felt he had violated her personal space.
Ally Coll and Caitlyn Caruso have both similarly accused the 77-year-old of holding them for a "little bit too long" while DJ Hill revealed that, at a fundraising event in 2012, the former vice president rested his hand on her shoulder and began moving it down her back.
The last of them, or at least the last that is known, is Vail Kohnert-Yount, a former White House intern who told the Washington Post that, when she met Biden in 2013, he put his hand on the back of her head, pressed his forehead to her forehead, and called her a "pretty girl."
When the allegations first began surfacing, Biden's response was not to apologize but to put his behavior down as a remnant of a past where it was seen as generally acceptable.
"I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say, 'You can do this.' Whether they are women, men, young, old, it’s the way I’ve always been. It’s the way I show I care about them, that I listen."
"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, I understand it. And I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility and I’ll meet it."
While Biden may have brushed off charges of inappropriate behavior, as evident from his primacy in the Democratic nominee field, the latest allegation of sexual assault -- coming just months before the November election -- will be a bigger hurdle to navigate.