Joe Biden is accused of sexual assault as he heads toward election fight with Trump

Key Points
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden faces an accusation by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago.
  • Biden's campaign strongly denies Tara Reade's allegation, telling NBC News that it "absolutely did not happen."
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the crowd during a South Carolina campaign launch party on February 11, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images

As former Vice President Joe Biden enjoys big new presidential campaign endorsements from a political rival and his popular old boss, he also is facing an accusation by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her  27 years ago.

Tara Reade first made her claims in a podcast last month. She recently made an official complaint to police in Washington, D.C.

Biden's campaign strongly denies Reade's accusation, telling NBC News that it "absolutely did not happen."

Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told NBC in a statement, "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," Bedinfield said.

The campaign had no immediate additional comment to CNBC on Tuesday.

Read NBC News' story on the sex assault allegation against Joe Biden here

In her complaint, Reade said she was serving as an aide to then-Sen. Biden in the spring of 1993. She told police in her recent complaint that Biden used his fingers to penetrate her after she gave him a gym bag.

Reade's accusation against Biden has gained attention at a time when the former longtime senator from Delaware was preparing to fully pivot to face President Donald Trump in the election this fall.

Trump won the White House in 2016 despite the bombshell disclosure of an old "Access Hollywood" tape that revealed how he had bragged about groping women's genitals without their consent. The tape came to light weeks before the election.

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Trump has been publicly accused of sexually groping and harassing multiple women, and one accuser, the writer E. Jean Carroll, claims in a civil defamation lawsuit that he raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Trump has denied the allegations.

Biden this week locked up a key endorsement from what had been his last remaining rival for the 2020 Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On Tuesday, Biden's former boss, ex-President Barack Obama, formally endorsed him.

Reade filed the police complaint last week, NBC News noted. She alleges the assault occurred some time between March 1 and May 31, 1993. NBC News said that a record, which Reade provided, shows that she had worked in Biden's office from December 1992 to August 1993. The news site also reported she had given different explanations for why she left Washington.

Reade has confirmed to NBC News that she is the person referred to as "Subject-1" in the report and that "Subject-2" refers to Biden.

NBC News reported that it had spoken to Reade multiple times in recent weeks, along with five other people whom she said she had told in some way about her alleged assault by Biden.

One person, who asked that her name be withheld by NBC News, confirmed that "Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time," the news outlet reported.

A second person, who also spoke with NBC News on the condition of anonymity, said Reade had told her "in the mid-2000s that Biden had been inappropriate and touched her when she worked in his office but that she didn't detail the alleged assault."

Three other people named by Reade told NBC News they did not recall her telling them about the alleged act by Biden. They include Biden's former chief of staff, Ted Kaufmann, and Biden's longtime executive assistant, Marianne Baker.

Reade told NBC News that at the time of the incident she filed a formal complaint alleging harassment, but not assault, through a Senate personnel office.

NBC News noted that federal law at that time "set forth procedures for allegations of harassment or discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, which would have included a hearing by a board of independent officers."

"No such process was initiated by Reade's complaint," NBC News added.

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Last year, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada legislator, said that during a rally for her 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor, Biden put his hand on her shoulder, got up very close to her from behind, leaned in, smelled her hair and then kissed her head.

After Flores went public with her account, several other women told NBC News and other media outlets that they had been uncomfortable with Biden's close physical contact with them.

Biden said last year that during years of campaigning and in public life he had "offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort."

"And not once  — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately," Biden said.