WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday defended former vice president Joe Biden in the face of a sexual assault allegation that has roiled the presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign.
“The vice president’s answers were credible and convincing,” Warren told reporters, referring to an interview Biden gave Friday in which he denied the allegations. “I support the vice president, I support his campaign, and I’m proud to endorse him for president.”
In late March, Tara Reade, a former aide to Biden, accused him of pushing her up against a wall and penetrating her with his fingers without her consent when she worked in his Senate office in 1993. Biden addressed her claims directly for the first time Friday in a written statement and an interview with MSNBC, flatly denying that what she described had ever taken place.
The issue is fraught for Democrats, who rallied around women alleging sexual harassment and assault during the #MeToo movement, which came with a rallying cry of “Believe women.” As Biden prepares for a general election battle against President Trump, who has been accused himself of sexual assault or misconduct by multiple women over the years, prominent female Democrats are being asked to answer for the former vice president — and they are stepping up to make the case for him.
On Monday, Warren became the latest to defend Biden.
“I believe that everyone has a right to tell her story, to be listened to, and treated with respect,” Warren said Monday in the halls of the Senate. "I saw the reports of what Ms. Reade said; I saw an interview with vice president Biden. I appreciate that the vice president took a lot of questions, tough questions. And he answered them directly and respectfully.”
Warren is one of several Democratic women who could make it onto Biden’s short list of contenders to be his pick for running mate. Biden committed to choosing a woman for the post in March — a move that was intended to quell concerns about the implications of a white man topping the ticket in a party powered by diversity and female voters.
Now, he may be able to turn to many of those possible contenders to defend him. They are facing thorny questions about gender, assault and what is owed to accusers at the very moment they are trying to win his favor.
Last month, California Senator Kamala Harris called Biden “someone who really has fought for women,” echoing Biden’s frequent invocations of his work on the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s, but she also said Reade “has a right to tell her story.”
Stacey Abrams, a former candidate for governor of Georgia, said last week that she believes Biden. And on Sunday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who Biden has said is on his short list, and who has spoken about her own experience surviving sexual assault, defended Biden.
“We need to give people an opportunity to tell their story, but then we have a duty to vet it, and just because you’re a survivor doesn’t mean that every claim is equal,” Whitmer said.
Last year, Reade accused Biden of touching her in inappropriate ways, like stroking her neck. In March, she levied the more serious sexual assault accusation against Biden. She has also said she filed a complaint about working in his Senate office, although she told the AP over the weekend the complaint was not specifically about sexual assault. Instead, she said, it was about comments she said Biden made about liking her legs and about “retaliation.”
No such complaint has been located. Biden’s campaign has urged Senate officials to release such a complaint, if it exists, but the secretary of the Senate said Monday it has no “discretion” to release records like that, according to CNN.