- Rich McHughinvestigative journalist with Business Insider.
- Lynda LaCasseformer neighbor of Tara Reade, who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denied sexual assault allegations against him on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, breaking his silence after weeks of mounting pressure to respond to claims put forward by former staffer Tara Reade, who says he sexually assaulted her in 1993. In a statement, Biden said, “I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened.” Tara Reade first came forward with her allegations in March, saying Biden pushed her up against a wall and digitally penetrated her. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we speak with Reade’s former neighbor Lynda LaCasse, who says that Reade told her about the encounter and described it in detail in the 1990s. LaCasse is a lifelong Democrat and Biden supporter. She says of Tara Reade, “I believe her 100%.” We also speak with investigative journalist Rich McHugh, who first interviewed LaCasse for Business Insider.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. For the first time, this morning, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has responded to sexual assault allegations against him on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, breaking his silence after weeks of mounting pressure to deny allegations put forward by Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer who says he sexually assaulted her in 1993. In a statement Friday morning, Biden said, quote, “I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened,” he said. This is Biden speaking on MSNBC just before we went to broadcast.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Would you please go on the record with the American people? Did you sexually assault Tara Reade?
JOE BIDEN: No, it is not true. I am saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. And it didn’t. It never happened.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Do you remember her? Do you remember any types of complaints that she might have made?
JOE BIDEN: I don’t remember any type of complaint she may have made. It was 27 years ago. And I don’t remember, nor does anyone else, that I’m aware of. And the fact is that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any complaint ever having been made.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Have you or your campaign, have you reached out to her?
JOE BIDEN: No, I have not reached out to her. It was 27 years ago. This never happened. And when she first made the claim, we made it clear that it never happened. And that’s simple as that.
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Biden was being questioned by Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski about his senatorial records at the University of Delaware, which are sealed to the public, and his comments during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, in which he said, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you've got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real,” unquote.
Joe Biden’s denial comes as two more people have come forward this week to corroborate the account of Tara Reade. Business Insider reported earlier this week that Reade’s former neighbor said the pair discussed the assault in detail in the mid-1990s and that Tara Reade described then-Senator Biden pushing her up against a wall and digitally penetrating her. A former colleague who also knew Reade in the mid-’90s said she had spoken of being sexually harassed by her former boss in Washington, D.C.
Tara Reade first came forward with her allegations in March. She recounted the incident on Democracy Now! A warning: Her description is graphic.
TARA READE: I was approached by my supervisor. She handed me a gym bag and said, “Hurry, Joe wants this, so get it to him. He’ll meet you down towards the Capitol.” And I went down the stairs, and I don’t remember exactly where I was, because there’s connections between the Russell Building and all of that and the corridors, but we were in a semi-private location. It wasn’t a room. It wasn’t, you know, the Russell Office Building — I mean, in his office. It was down in the corridors. And I handed him the gym bag.
And then he — it was one, as I described, fluid moment. He was talking to me, and he said some things that I don’t recall. And I was up against the wall. And he — I remember the coldness of the wall. And I remember his hands underneath my blouse and underneath my skirt, and his fingers penetrating me as he was trying to kiss me and I was pulling away. And he pulled back, and he said, “Come on, man. I heard you liked me.” But he was angry. It was like a tight voice. And he tended to smile when he was angry. And he isn’t like the Uncle Joe like everybody talks about now. He was younger. He was my dad’s age at that time and very strong. And he looked insulted and angry. And I remember feeling like I had done something wrong when he said that statement. And then I was standing there when he said — he was still near me. He said — pointed his finger and said, “You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.” And he walked away.
And I don’t remember exactly where I went after. I think I went to the restroom to clean up, but I don’t remember precisely. The next memory I have is sitting on the cold stairs, on the Russell Building back stairs, where the big windows are. And I remember just my whole body shaking. And I remember knowing that — knowing that I had made him angry and that my career was probably over. … Sitting on those stairs, the reality hit me.
The next thing I remember was that night and talking to my mom, and she was like, “You need to file a police report. It’s a sexual assault.” And I didn’t think of it as sexual assault, and I didn’t really understand. And I was trying to just get over the shock of it, because I looked up to him. He was supposed to be a champion of women. And I was so thrilled to be at that office and so honored, and it shattered my life and changed the trajectory of my whole career and life. And I lost my job after I complained, and I was fired.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Biden staffer, when he was senator, Tara Reade, speaking in a Democracy Now! TV/radio broadcast exclusive. To see the full interview, you can go to democracynow.org. We were following up on a podcast interview done by journalist Katie Halper. Many news outlets were slow to report Tara Reade’s allegations, but our story gained renewed attention last weekend when archival video emerged of Reade’s mother anonymously calling into Larry King’s show on CNN in 1993 and making a reference to what happened to her daughter Tara.
JEANETTE ALTIMUS: Hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do, besides go to the press in Washington. My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all. And the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it, out of respect for him.
LARRY KING: Or she had a story to tell, but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it.
JEANETTE ALTIMUS: That’s true.
AMY GOODMAN: Tara Reade has confirmed the voice of the caller was her mother, who died in 2016. Joe Biden’s campaign has denied Reade’s sexual assault claim, calling her allegation untrue.
All this comes as Joe Biden has picked up several high-profile endorsements this week, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressmember Pramila Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Well, for more, we’re joined by the Business Insider reporter, Rich McHugh. He’s a former NBC News producer, where he worked with Ronan Farrow on the story of Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual assaults. Rich McHugh’s recent investigation confirmed Tara Reade’s accounts with two people who knew her in the 1990s. And we’re joined by one of those women: Lynda LaCasse, a former neighbor of Tara Reade who has corroborated Reade’s account. And she will be talking about that for the first time in a broadcast interview. Rich McHugh brought out the interview with her in print in Business Insider.
Rich, let’s begin with you. Talk about this story. Joe Biden, as we speak, is saying it’s not true.
RICH McHUGH: Well, I think that’s not unexpected, you know, for someone in his position. What I’ll say is that when I started reporting on this, I go at every story like this with extreme skepticism. I never actually wanted to report on this story. One of the survivors in the Weinstein story that I worked with, Sarah Ann Masse, came to me and said, “Look, can you take a look at this?” And I said, “Well, look, we might not like what we find, but if everybody’s OK with that, I’ll go down this road.”
And so, the more that I’ve gone down the road reporting it, the more corroborating voices I’ve found. And when I — you know, when she filed a police report, and then when I found Lynda — you know, Lynda is someone that struck me as entirely credible. She’s like, “Look, I’m a lifelong Democrat. I am voting for Biden regardless. And this happened. So I need to, in good faith, come forward and say that.”
So, you know, will we ever know that there’s 100% truth that this happened or did not happen? I don’t think so. But this needs to be continued to be reported out. I know this morning, Joe Biden said — he’s calling on the National Archives to release his papers. So we spoke to the National Archives and said, “Look, there is some question about Tara Reade filing a complaint outside of this office, outside of the Biden office. If you have that, would that live there?” And they told us that, no, they have no records from the — I believe it’s called the Fair Employment Practices office. And so, that leads us to believe that there might be some of those papers within the University of Delaware in his senatorial papers, which is why we’re calling on them to open them.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go to Joe Biden speaking today, Joe Biden speaking today on MSNBC, talking about that issue of the University of Delaware archives. He was being questioned by Mika Brzezinski.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Nothing classified with the president or anybody else. I’m just asking: Why not do a search for Tara Reade’s name in the University of Delaware records?
JOE BIDEN: Look, I mean, who does that search?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: The University of Delaware? Perhaps you set up a commission that can do it? I don’t know. Whatever is the fairest way —
JOE BIDEN: No.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: — to create the most transparency.
JOE BIDEN: Well, this is — look, Mika, she said she filed a report. She has her employment records still. She said she filed a report with the only office that would have a report in the United States Senate at the time. If the report was ever filed, it was filed there, period.
AMY GOODMAN: Rich McHugh, your quick comment?
RICH McHUGH: From speaking to the National Archives, they say, no, they would not have that report, that it would not be within the National Archives.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s bring in Lynda LaCasse, the former neighbor of Tara Reade, who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault. Tara Reade accused him in 1993. We just played the clip of Tara describing what happened. Lynda LaCasse came forward just recently in the Business Insider piece and has corroborated Tara Reade’s account. Lynda, this is your first time speaking on television about this. Can you tell us what happened in the mid-1990s? How did you know Tara? And then tell us what she told you and why you’re coming forward today.
LYNDA LACASSE: Well, Tara was my next-door neighbor. I moved into the apartment right next to her, and we became close at that time. And we actually — she told me about it when we were having a conversation. And so, as Rich put forth in the article in the Business Insider, I was having a moment — I was outside, and I had just received some papers, and I was upset about them. And she came over. And we were talking about violence, because I had experienced violence myself.
And she started telling me about Joe Biden and what he had done. And basically, she told me that he put his — he put her up against a wall, and he put his hand up her skirt, and he put his fingers inside her. And she was very distraught, and she was very upset, and she was crying. And that’s how that conversation happened. We were just sitting on my front stoop in front of my apartment.
AMY GOODMAN: And what year was this that you had that conversation?
LYNDA LACASSE: Well, it was either 1994 or very early — yeah, I’m sorry, 1995 or early 1996.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Lynda, if you could talk about your response at the time? She told you — did she tell you it was Senator Biden who she had worked for?
LYNDA LACASSE: She did. She did tell me that. And, you know, I really didn’t pay that much attention at the time. I didn’t really care much about politics. I didn’t — I knew she worked for him. I didn’t know really who he was much. I didn’t put that much importance on it. So…
AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about why you’ve decided to come forward now? I understand you’re a Biden supporter. Is that right?
LYNDA LACASSE: That’s correct. I’m a strong, lifelong Democrat, and I am a Biden supporter. And, you know, I didn’t know about — I didn’t know about all the stuff that was going on in the news. She told me about it last month. She called me, and she told me that she had decided to come forward with it. And I said — and she told me about the allegations. And I said, “Oh, yes, I remember that.”
So, then we talked again a little over a week ago, and I volunteered to come forward. And again, you know, I’ve worked so much, I hadn’t really had time to pay as much attention as I could have. But I did volunteer to come forward. And the reason I volunteered to come forward is just I feel that the truth needs to be told, and her truth needs to be told. I believed her back then, when she told me, and I believe her now.
AMY GOODMAN: And just talk about how you mesh believing her now, that she was sexually assaulted by her boss, by Senator Joe Biden — that’s her allegation — if you believe her, why you support him.
LYNDA LACASSE: It’s a difficult thing. I’ve always supported him. And I just have to keep supporting him now. And it’s a little bit harder now, after this allegation. I’m a definite anti-Trumper, so I’m having a little bit of a hard time with it. So, but mostly it’s an anti-Trump thing. And, you know, I saw him on Morning Joe this morning, and he looks very believable, too. But I’m hearing this today, and I heard Tara a long time ago telling me that. So, I’m struggling with it, with the election now. But I’m not — I’m still going to vote for him.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me bring back in Rich McHugh. Your thoughts on how the media has covered this story? I mean, ultimately, The New York Times did a piece. New York magazine, Rebecca Traister, did a piece. Of course, MSNBC is now interviewing Joe Biden today. You’ve had a lot of experience with NBC in trying to bring out the Harvey Weinstein story first on NBC with Ronan Farrow. But talk about the progression of this piece.
RICH McHUGH: I think the media was afraid — I’ll just say “afraid” — because, you know, there are things in Tara’s story, there are some inconsistencies, there’s her writings about Russia and whatnot, that give journalists, myself included, some pause in reporting this. But when you’re at a network level, you weigh those things even more carefully when the allegations are against a, you know, presumptive Democratic nominee.
That said, I am a little surprised at the fact — the lack of coverage after more voices, corroborating voices, came forward, even after Lynda came forward.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about who else, Rich.
RICH McHUGH: Well, so, right now on the record is — so, at the time, Tara said she told her mother, who is since deceased, in 2016, so we can’t hear from her. But we did just hear from her on Larry King. She didn’t name Biden, but she did say things that make sense according to Tara’s story. And Tara did tell us about this before it was unearthed, so we were looking for it.
She said she told a friend at the time, contemporaneously. I have spoken to that friend a lot and interviewed her, and her story lines up exactly. I find no inconsistencies with that story.
Her brother, Collin Moulton, has gone on the record, with me and Business Insider and others, and confirmed parts of her story. He says he was a younger brother by seven years, so he doesn’t think he was told the full story, because he was a younger brother. But he definitely remembers being told that Joe Biden had his hand up her — inside her clothes or up her clothes.
Lynda, who we’re hearing from now.
And Lorraine Sanchez, who also went on the record. She worked with Tara from '94 through ’96 in Senator Jack O'Connell’s office in California and says, at the time that Tara arrived there, she was complaining about having experienced sexual harassment at the hands of her former boss in D.C. I asked Tara, I said, “Did you experience sexual harassment from anybody else in D.C.? Do you have any other allegation?” And she said, “No, I only worked for — I only experienced it in the Biden office at the hands of Joe Biden.”
So, you have a number of voices right there that — and there are other people, too, by the way. I spoke with an intern who worked under Tara in the Biden office, and she says she doesn’t remember Tara saying anything about sexual harassment or about sexual assault. But what she does confirm is that Tara was — all of a sudden, in mid-April 1993, Tara was replaced, and she was no longer her supervisor, which she found odd.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to put President Trump on, who was questioned about whether he thought Joe Biden should respond to the allegations.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know exactly — I think he should respond. You know, it’s — it could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was President Trump, who has himself been accused of rape and sexual assault repeatedly by dozens of women. Rich McHugh?
RICH McHUGH: It’s a complicated conversation, no doubt about it. This is — both of these — both Trump and Biden now are, you know, credibly accused. And we’re talking about this allegation right now because it’s Joe Biden, but both need to be discussed, all of them.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Lynda LaCasse, do you feel strongly that Tara Reade should be believed?
LYNDA LACASSE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I believe her 100%.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Lynda LaCasse has come forward, who corroborates Tara Reade’s story, says she told her about it in the mid-1990s. And I want to thank Rich McHugh, who wrote this piece in the Business Insider. We will link to that. He’s an investigative reporter, former NBC News producer, worked with Ronan Farrow on the story of Harvey Weinstein.