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Kirsten Gillibrand on Tara Reade allegation: 'I support Vice President Biden'

CNN logo CNN 4/29/2020 By Jamie Ehrlich and Ted Barrett, CNN
Kirsten Gillibrand who is smiling and looking at the camera: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The hearing was titled "Freight Movement: Assessing Where We Are Now And Where We Need To Go". © Zach Gibson/Bloomberg/Getty Images Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The hearing was titled "Freight Movement: Assessing Where We Are Now And Where We Need To Go".

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has offered her support to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden following accusations of alleged sexual assault by his former Senate aide, Tara Reade.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Gillibrand said she supports and stands by Biden.

"So when we say believe women, it's for this explicit intention of making sure there's space for all women to come forward to speak their truth, to be heard. And in this allegation, that is what Tara Reade has done," Gillibrand said.

"She has come forward, she has spoken, and they have done an investigation in several outlets. Those investigations, Vice President Biden has called for himself. Vice President Biden has vehemently denied these allegations and I support Vice President Biden."

Reade previously told CNN that in 1993, when she was working as an aide in Biden's Senate office, she was assaulted by the then-Delaware senator. A former neighbor of Reade provided an on-the-record corroboration of Reade's allegation and a newly surfaced 1993 video appears to feature the mother of Reade calling into "Larry King Live" to seek advice around the time of the alleged assault.

The Biden campaign has denied Reade's allegation.

"Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard -- and heard respectfully," Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield said in a statement provided to CNN. "Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."

Asked by reporters Tuesday, Gillibrand said she doesn't see a contradiction between how Democratic lawmakers are handling Reade's allegations and how they handled allegations levied against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford in 2018, which Kavanaugh denied during congressional testimony.

"No, and I stand by Vice President Biden. He has devoted his life to supporting women and he has vehemently denied this allegation," the New York Democrat said.

For some of Biden's supporters and surrogates, questions related to Reade's allegation have presented a challenging balancing act -- of expressing support for Biden's candidacy and character while not dismissing a sexual assault allegation.

Democrats in particular have vocally championed the #MeToo movement in recent years, advocating that all accusers to be fully heard and recognized. And gender dynamics are expected to remain at the forefront of the 2020 race, as Biden begins his search for a female running mate. Some of the women widely expected to be on Biden's shortlist of vice presidential nominees, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have recently been asked about the allegation; Biden's allies have pointed to his decades-long advocacy for women and victims of abuse, including his work on the Violence Against Women Act. Gillibrand's name has also been floated as a potential pick.

Gillibrand was the first in the Senate to call for former Sen. Al Franken's resignation after allegations of unwanted touching and kissing were made against the Minnesota Democrat in late 2017, writing that it would be "better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn't acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve."

The allegation against Biden comes as he is preparing to take on President Donald Trump in the general election. More than a dozen women have leveled allegations against Trump, ranging from unwelcome advances to sexual harassment and assault. Trump has denied those allegations.

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