A new piece of evidence has emerged buttressing the credibility of Tara Reade’s claim that she told her mother about allegations of sexual harassment and assault related to her former boss, then-Sen. Joe Biden. Biden, through a spokesperson, has denied the allegations. Reade has claimed to various media outlets, including The Intercept, that she told her mother, a close friend, and her brother about both the harassment and, to varying degrees of detail, the assault at the time. Her brother, Collin Moulton, and her friend, who has asked to remain anonymous, both confirmed that they heard about the allegations from Reade at the time. Reade’s mother died in 2016, but both her brother and friend also confirmed Reade had told her mother, and that her mother, a longtime feminist and activist, urged her to go to the police.
In interviews with The Intercept, Reade also mentioned that her mother had made a phone call to “Larry King Live” on CNN, during which she made reference to her daughter’s experience on Capitol Hill. Reade told The Intercept that her mother called in asking for advice after Reade, then in her 20s, left Biden’s office. “I remember it being an anonymous call and her saying my daughter was sexually harassed and retaliated against and fired, where can she go for help? I was mortified,” Reade told me.
Reade couldn’t remember the date or the year of the phone call, and King didn’t include the names of callers on his show. I was unable to find the call, but mentioned it in an interview with Katie Halper, the podcast host who first aired Reade’s allegation. After the podcast aired, a listener managed to find the call and sent it to The Intercept.
On August 11, 1993, King aired a program titled, “Washington: The Cruelest City on Earth?” Toward the end of the program, he introduces a caller dialing in from San Luis Obispo, California. Congressional records list August 1993 as Reade’s last month of employment with Biden’s Senate office, and, according to property records, Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, was living in San Luis Obispo County. Here is the transcript of the beginning of the call:
KING: San Luis Obispo, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes, 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.
KING: In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?
CALLER: That’s true.
King’s panel of guests offered no suggestions, and instead the conversation veered into a discussion of whether any of the men on set would leak damaging personal information about a rival to the press.
Reade, after being read the transcript of the call, said that it gelled with her memory of it, and, after the video was surfaced, confirmed it is her mother’s voice on the call. “Aww, I have not heard my mom’s voice in awhile,” she said.
There are several notable things about the emergence of the call. On the one hand, the caller does not specifically mention “sexual harassment” or retaliation, as Reade had recalled. On the other hand, the reference to being unable to “get through with her problems” aligns with Reade’s claim that she complained to superiors in Biden’s office and got nowhere, and the reference to going to the press makes clear that the caller is talking about more than just generic problems at the office. The problems, she makes clear, would damage the senator if exposed.
Reade’s inability to remember the exact date of the alleged assault, or its precise location, or the precise location of the office where she picked up the form needed to file a complaint, has been used by skeptics to suggest the allegation is fabricated. What the emergence of the call shows is that even if Reade’s memory is off on timing or details, the substance of her claims — in this case, that her mother called Larry King and discussed her situation — can still be true.
The call also calls into question the credibility of Biden’s denial. Reade said that she filed a complaint about Biden’s harassment with Marianne Baker, effectively the office manager in the Biden office. The Biden campaign released a statement from Baker, which said that neither Reade nor any other employee had ever complained about improper behavior. “In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone,” Baker said in the campaign’s statement. “These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”
For Baker’s statement to be true, Reade would have had to have lied to her friend, brother, and mother about having complained to Biden’s office. There is no obvious reason Reade would make up a story to those closest to her about the Senate office not taking Biden’s harassment seriously, while at the same time resisting pressure to go to the press.
Reade has said that the complaint she filed was related to the harassment she said she faced, and did not address the assault. The complaint was left with Biden’s office, and if it still exists, is with Biden’s papers at the University of Delaware. The school recently told reporter Rich McHugh that the papers are sealed until two years after Biden leaves public life.
The harassment Reade first went public with last year involves stroking her neck and running his fingers through the curls in her hair, as well as asking her to effectively serve as a cocktail waitress at an event.
Reade’s assault allegation, which became public last month, involves an interaction in the spring of 1993. She said that she was sent by her manager to bring a gym bag to Biden, and they met in a hallway of the Russell Senate Office Building, in a tucked away corner. Before she knew it, he pressed her up against the wall, forcibly kissed her, and put a hand each up her blouse and skirt, penetrating her with his fingers. She had what she recalls now as an “absurd” thought. “I remember thinking, where’s the gym bag? Because he had taken it in his hand, but all of a sudden it wasn’t in his hands and his hands were where they weren’t supposed to be,” she said.
Reade said that her impression was that Biden believed he had consent, and was surprised at the rejection, but that she had done nothing to give him that impression. “There was no flirtation, he had no consent. He was by my ears when he said, ‘Do you wanna go somewhere else?’” She pushed him off and he stepped back, looking surprised, she recalled, and flashing a huge smile.
“‘Come on, man,’” she said he told her. “‘I heard you liked me.’”
“He had that smile he gets, but his eyes were not smiling,” she said.
“You’re fine,” she recalled he said, grabbing her by her shoulders. As he walked away, he pointed back, “You’re fine.”
Update: April 24, 2020, 6:55 p.m.
The piece has been updated to add video that surfaced of the caller on the Larry King show, and Reade’s confirmation to The Intercept that the voice on the call was her mother’s.