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 that she was sure it was her mother, despite the audio not yet being available.
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.
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