Seven leading female Democratic politicians have had to publicly defend Joe Biden against a sexual assault allegation even as the presumptive Democratic nominee has remained silent.
Progressive activists and women's rights advocates are putting pressure on Biden to personally address former aide Tara Reade's accusation that he penetrated her with his fingers in a Senate hallway in 1993. While Biden's campaign has denied the allegation, the candidate has not been pushed to comment on the matter despite conducting 19 different interviews since the allegation surfaced in March.
Top supporters, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.), and former California senator Barbara Boxer, have all defended Biden when asked about the alleged incident. Abrams, Harris, Klobuchar, and Whitmer are reportedly on Biden's shortlist to be his 2020 running mate, who he has pledged will be a woman.
Pelosi has twice said that she is "satisfied" with Biden's denial of the charge, although the former vice president has not personally addressed the accusation. When a reporter asked her during a weekly briefing Thursday how she squared her support for Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford with her defense of Biden, Pelosi appeared irritated.
"I do not need a lecture or a speech," Pelosi said. "There is a lot of excitement around the idea that women will be heard and be listened to. There is also due process and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden."
When asked about the allegation, Klobuchar and Abrams parroted Biden campaign talking points, citing a New York Times article published April 12 as proof Biden is innocent. In an interview with MSNBC on April 16, Klobuchar said the Times had performed a "very thorough" vetting of Reade's claim. Abrams told CNN on Tuesday that the Times report found Reade's accusation was "not credible" and the incident "did not happen." The Times has since said that its article did not reach a conclusion about the veracity of Reade's accusation.
Whitmer gave a noncommittal answer when asked by NPR about the accusation on April 14. Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle on April 17 that Reade has the "right to tell her story" but pivoted to hailing Biden for helping pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. Gillibrand, who led the call for former Minnesota senator Al Franken to resign in 2017 over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that she believed Biden.
"I stand by Vice President Biden," Gillibrand said. "He's devoted his life to supporting women and he has vehemently denied this allegation."
Boxer, who left the Senate in 2017 and has endorsed Biden, told the New York Times that she believed the campaign had handled Reade's allegation "well" and "done everything they can do."
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Other female Democratic supporters have remained silent when asked about the Biden allegation, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.).
President Donald Trump's campaign said the lack of direct questioning of Biden revealed a media double standard.
"Any reporter throwing softballs at Biden and not confronting him with these allegations is exhibiting that double standard," Deputy Press Secretary Ken Farnaso said in a statement. "It's baffling that nearly everyone in American politics has been asked for a reaction to this except Joe Biden himself. Is he off-limits?"
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.