House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doubled down on her support for Joe Biden on Thursday in the face of a sexual assault allegation against him and had a contentious response to a reporter who asked whether she was treating Biden differently than Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
During her Capitol press conference, the first question to the speaker was about Biden, but Pelosi shut down the reporter, saying she first wanted to address the topic on hand — expanding broadband access as part of the broader coronavirus stimulus measures.
At the end of the press conference, after Pelosi has spoken thoroughly about her legislative priorities, the reporter brought up the sexual assault allegation from Tara Reade against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Washington Examiner’s Kerry Picket asked whether Democrats had a different “standard” for Biden than for Kavanaugh, for whom Democrats were demanding an FBI investigation over an alleged assault when he was a teenager.
“I respect your question,” Pelosi told the reporter. “I don’t need a lecture or a speech.”
Pelosi said she supports the #Metoo movement that gave way to victims of sexual harassment speaking out against powerful politicians, celebrities and media figures, but she said she stands by Biden.
“There is also due process. And the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said there are statements from former Biden employees who don’t corroborate the allegation from Reade, a former Senate staffer, at the time. (However, in recent weeks Reade’s story has gotten additional support from people she allegedly told at the time.)
“There was never any record of this, there was never any record,” Pelosi said. “And that nobody ever came forward or nobody ever came forward to say something about it apart from the principal involved.”
“I am so proud — the happiest day for me this week was to support Joe Biden for president of the United States. He’s a person of great integrity,” Pelosi said.
The House speaker cited Biden authoring the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate as a testament to his character.
“I believe that he will be a great president of the United States. He is the personification of hope and optimism and authenticity for our country — a person of great values. So I’m going to remove all doubt in anyone’s mind. I have [a] great comfort level with the situation as I see it, with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward [and] with all the highest regard for Joe Biden.
“And that’s what I have to say about that,” Pelosi said, before walking off the stage and ending her press conference.
Earlier Thursday, Pelosi said she was “satisfied” with how Biden has responded to sexual assault allegations made against him by the former staffer — even as new revelations have emerged that appear to bolster the accuser’s claims.
“Well, I have great sympathy for any woman who brings forth an allegation; I’m a big strong supporter of the #MeToo movement. I think it’s made a great contribution to our country and I do support Joe Biden,” Pelosi said on CNN. “I’m satisfied with how he has responded, I know him, I was proud to endorse him Monday, very proud to endorse him, so I’m satisfied with that.”
The comments were her first on the matter since her Biden endorsement.
It echoes remarks she made on MSNBC on April 17, when she was asked if she was satisfied with Biden’s answer: “Yes, I am. I am very much involved in this issue. I always want to give the opportunity that women deserve to be heard. I am satisfied with his answer, yes.”
Biden, however, has not personally said anything about the accusation, relying instead on his campaign to deny it.
Reade, a former Biden staffer, has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1993. The campaign referred Fox News to a statement earlier this month from Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield that said: “What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”
Reade’s allegations have received some support in the form of a resurfaced “Larry King Live” interview that appears to show Reade’s mother referring to the accusation, albeit in vague terms. Additionally, two more people who knew Reade have come forward to say she told them about the allegation at the time.
Reade’s story first resurfaced in an article in The Intercept on March 24. Podcast host Katie Halper then interviewed Reade, who said that, in 1993, a more senior member of Biden’s staff asked her to bring the then-senator his gym bag near the U.S. Capitol building, which led to the encounter in question.
“He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing,” Reade told Halper. “There was no, like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”
Reade said she tried to share her story last year, but nobody listened to her. Earlier this month, she filed a criminal complaint against Biden with police in Washington, D.C.