JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Vice President and likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made his first public statements this morning on allegations by a former Senate staffer that she was sexually assaulted by him in the early 1990s. Lisa Desjardins has the story. And a warning: This report contains graphic language.
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate: I'm saying unequivocally, it never, never happened.
LISA DESJARDINS: In his interview on MSNBC this morning, Biden strongly denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted a congressional aide in 1993, when he a senator and Judiciary Committee chairman. Biden also said he would not malign his accuser.
JOSEPH BIDEN: Women have a right to be heard, and the press should rigorously investigate claims they make. I will always uphold that principle. But, in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. And, in this case, the truth is, the claims are false.
LISA DESJARDINS: The former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, says Biden pushed her against the wall in a Capitol Hill office building, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers. Here she is in a podcast interview with The New York Times:
TARA READE, Biden Accuser: It happened at once. And that's what's so hard about telling this story. Like, he's talking to me, and his hands are everywhere. And everything's happening at once, and very quickly. This happened, like, in under two minutes.
LISA DESJARDINS: This is different than her account last year, when she told The Union newspaper in Nevada that Biden sometimes put his hand on her shoulders and stroked her neck. She was one of eight women to report uncomfortable touching from Biden. With her more recent charge of assault, two friends and her brother have since said on the record that they remember Reade sharing details of it with them at different points.
LARRY KING, CNN: San Luis Obispo, California, hello.
LISA DESJARDINS: Reade also identified her mother as an anonymous caller on The Larry King Live show in 1993, who spoke of her daughter having problems with a prominent senator.
JOSEPH BIDEN: I fought my entire life to change, to change the whole notion of the law and cultural sexual -- around the culture on sexual assault.
LISA DESJARDINS: In his denial, Biden cited his past work writing the landmark law on domestic violence, the Violence Against Women Act.
JOSEPH BIDEN: The proudest accomplishment of my career.
LISA DESJARDINS: And the It's On Us campaign he led while vice president, which encouraged men to be allies against sexual assault on college campuses.
JOSEPH BIDEN: It should be investigated.
LISA DESJARDINS: Biden called on the Senate secretary and the National Archives to try to locate any complaint against him by Reade, as she claims she reported. Biden says he does not know of any such complaint.
JOSEPH BIDEN: There have been no complaints made against me in terms of my Senate career, in terms of my office and anything that has been run.
Look, this is an open book. There's nothing for me to hide, nothing at all.
LISA DESJARDINS: But Biden maintained that other records from his time in the Senate, now at the University of Delaware library, do not contain personnel files and would remain sealed. For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This evening, former Vice President Biden asked the secretary of the Senate to look for any records of complaints that existed during the time of Ms. Reade's letter. He asked the conclusion of that search be made public.