Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have remained silent about the new sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, even as their onetime political relationship with the ex-vice president is used to bolster his defense.
In recent days as Tara Reade’s accusation against the former vice president has piqued media interest, Biden’s allies have begun invoking his status as Barack Obama’s running mate to cast doubt on the credibility of the allegation. The strategy first emerged after David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for Obama’s first White House run, penned an op-ed last week asserting that Reade’s claims did not emerge while Biden was being vetted for the vice presidency in 2008.
“The comprehensive vet certainly would have turned up any formal complaints filed against Biden during his 36-year career in the Senate. It did not,” Axelrod wrote. Noting that “the team would have investigated any salacious rumors of the sort that travel far and wide in Washington. There were none.”
“Through that entire process, the name Tara Reade never came up. No formal complaint. No informal chatter. Certainly, no intimation of sexual harassment or assault from her or anyone else,” Axelrod added. Including, for good measure, that “the team of investigators, expert[s] in their work, would not have missed it.”
Many from the former vice president’s camp and within the Democrat Party have seized on Axelrod’s comments, which have been verified by the lawyer who handled Biden’s vetting in 2008, suggesting if Reade’s allegations were true Obama would not have put Biden on his ticket. That argument was exhibited recently by Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), during an appearance on ABC’s This Week.
“The most comprehensive investigation of the vice president was when he was vetted by Barack Obama in 2008,” Perez said when pressed on why the DNC was not pushing for an investigation of Reade’s claims. “They look at everything about you. They looked at the entire history of Joe Biden. His entire career.”
“And, I tell you, if Barack Obama had any indication that there was an issue, Barack Obama would not have had him as his vice president,” the DNC chair added. “Barack Obama trusted Joe Biden, I trust Joe Biden.”
Such arguments have persisted even as Reade, herself, has acknowledged that she did not come forward in 2008 because of fear of hurting Obama’s chances of making history as the first black president.
Reade, who worked for Biden’s congressional office between 1992 and 1993, had initially come forward last April to accuse the former vice president of unwanted touching. At the time, Reade told a local California news outlet that she had filed a complaint noting the misconduct with the Senate’s personnel office when it purportedly occurred. Her story, however, changed in March, with Reade claiming that Biden had pushed her up against a wall, forcibly kissed her, and digitally penetrated her sometime in 1993.
Reade’s accusation of sexual assault has been difficult to corroborate given that nearly 30 years have passed since it supposedly took place. As such, Reade has sought to make public the sexual harassment complaint she allegedly filed in 1993, especially as former Biden staffers claim no such document exists. Reade, for her part, has contended that not only does the complaint exist, but it is likely within the thousands of Senate documents the former vice president donated to the University of Delaware in 2011.
As all of this has unfolded, the Obamas have remained in the background, but never far from public thought. The former president made headlines last month by issuing a hearty endorsement of his onetime White House partner.
“Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend,” the former commander-in-chief said in a video released by the Biden campaign. “And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now.”
The endorsement, which came only days after Reade’s story began circulating among the mainstream media, signaled not only that the primary was over but that Obama would play a vital role in the Democrats’ attempt to oust Trump in November.
Meanwhile, the former first lady has emerged as a much-hyped, if not dream candidate to be Biden’s running mate in the general election. The former vice president, himself, has indulged such talk, telling a local Pennsylvania television station in late April that he would pick her “in a heartbeat,” provided the Obamas were open to the idea.
As the Obamas take a more high-profile political role not only in the nation’s political discourse but also in the Biden campaign, both have remained silent on the Reade controversy. In fact, during the few public appearances that the couple have made since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, neither has been asked about the accusations against Biden or offered any comment of their own on the topic.
When Breitbart News reached out to the Obama Foundation and the former president and first lady’s office, respectively, earlier this week to gauge their opinions on the topic, no response was forthcoming.
In the absence of such public statements, a number of the former vice president’s most eager backers have taken to invoking the Obamas to dismiss Reade’s allegations.
“Joe Biden ran and was elected Vice President twice. … [He] ran for president twice before 2020,” a prominent Biden supporter and former Tennessee elected official said recently on social media. “Not once … did Tara Reade say ANYTHING. Barack Obama vetted Biden. Who do you trust?”