A coalition of national women’s advocacy groups drafted a letter urging Joe Biden to address sexual-assault claims by former staffer Tara Reade, but decided against releasing the letter publicly after the Biden campaign learned of the efforts, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Instead, the unspecified groups decided to work with Biden advisers to try to pressure the campaign to address the allegations before the end of April, which is designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Vice President Biden has the opportunity, right now, to model how to take serious allegations seriously,” the letter read. “The weight of our expectations matches the magnitude of the office he seeks.”
As of April 30, a campaign spokesman has denied the allegations but Biden himself has not spoken about them on the record. The campaign circulated talking points to surrogates advising them to say the alleged incident with Reade “did not happen,” BuzzFeed reported on Tuesday.
“It’s difficult for survivors to see that a woman who has more corroborating sources than most survivors have in similar situations is being tossed aside and actively being weaponized by cynical political actors,” Shaunna Thomas, a founder of women’s rights advocacy group UltraViolet, which is involved in discussions with the Biden campaign regarding Reade’s allegations, told the Times.
The Times itself edited a story on Reade’s allegation after the campaign complained. Initially, the report included the sentence, “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” The paper subsequently deleted the second half of the sentence.
“Even though a lot of us, including me, had looked at it before the story went into the paper, I think that the campaign thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct, and that’s not what the sentence was intended to say,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet said.
As media attention has become more focused on Reade, calls have grown over the past week to release Biden’s Senate archive, currently held at the University of Delaware, which may offer new details that shed light on the allegations. Seven members of the university’s Board of Trustees, including its chairman, have donated to the Biden campaign and affiliated PAC’s.