U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former presidential rival who helped Joe Biden clinch the Democratic nomination, is standing behind the former vice president against a disputed allegation of long-ago sexual misconduct.
“He answered questions directly and has been open and transparent with the American people, and I am proud to be supporting him,” Klobuchar said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
Biden has publicly denied the accusation brought forward by Tara Reade, a woman who worked briefly in his Senate office in 1993 and alleges that he sexually assaulted her in the Capitol. Despite Reade’s varying accounts, the story has roiled the Democratic Party, forcing Biden’s allies to balance party allegiance and respect for the #MeToo movement.
“Women need to be heard and allegations need to be fully reviewed, and Vice President Biden has said the same,” Klobuchar said in her statement. She declined an interview request on the matter.
Several national media outlets have reported top Biden aides at that time deny Reade’s account that she reported his behavior. Several people who knew her at the time have bolstered her story, but aspects of her account have been called into question.
Biden broke his silence on the allegation only last week after some allies called on him to address it head-on. “It never, never happened,” Biden said last Friday in an MSNBC interview.
Like many top Democrats, Klobuchar has had to grapple with several political imbroglios of the #MeToo era — the resignation of fellow Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., after more than a half-dozen women alleged unwanted touching on his part; and the pitched battle in the Senate Judiciary Committee over sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Franken, who faced similar accusations in 2017, resigned after several fellow Democrats in the Senate called on him to do so. Klobuchar never made that call, though she said following his decision that he was right to step down.
In 2018, Klobuchar took a lead role in questioning Kavanaugh over allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Kavanaugh denied it, and grew testy when Klobuchar asked if he’d ever been so drunk that he blacked out. But she later attributed her vote against confirming Kavanaugh to his stance on consumer and antitrust issues and his view of executive power.
Republicans now are using Reade’s accusation to blast Democrats backing Biden as hypocrites.
“Klobuchar raised her national profile through her grandstanding during the Kavanaugh hearings,” said Preya Samsundar, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Samsundar criticized Klobuchar for “ignoring” the claims against Biden, comparing it to her stance toward Franken. “The hypocrisy is staggering,” she said.
Reade’s accusation has been fraught for Republican backers of President Donald Trump as well. Democrats argue that while Biden is the subject of a single sexual assault allegation, Trump has been publicly accused by 17 different women of sexual misconduct. He has denied it.
While Trump has called Reade “credible,” he also has encouraged Biden to “fight” the allegation from 27 years ago.
Despite that, Republican political groups have been quick to criticize Klobuchar and other Minnesota Democrats such as Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, faulting them for staying quiet about the allegation against Biden.
As scrutiny of Reade’s account continues, her story already has given the #MeToo movement new life in the 2020 election, particularly as Biden has vowed to choose a woman as his running mate. Whoever he chooses is likely to be called on to defend him against continuous attacks based on Reade’s allegations.
Last year, several other women said Biden had subjected them to unwanted kissing, hugging or touching. He vowed to better police his own behavior.
As rivals for the Democratic nod, Biden and Klobuchar maintained an amiable relationship as they competed with similarly centrist messages. Klobuchar saved most of her criticism for the more liberal proposals of several fellow senators, particularly Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and for the thin political resume of her fellow Midwesterner, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The day before the Super Tuesday primary in early March, Klobuchar dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden. He pulled off an unexpected win in Minnesota, and publicly gave Klobuchar the credit.
Since then, she has campaigned for Biden and kept up her criticism of Trump. She’s been a fixture on lists of his potential choices for vice president.
Klobuchar was scheduled to hold a “virtual fundraiser” with Biden on Tuesday night, with donors to her presidential campaign encouraged to throw money to Biden’s cause.