WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she has “a great comfort level” with how former vice president Joe Biden has addressed an allegation of sexual assault from the mid-1990s and praised him as “a person of great integrity.”

Pelosi’s comments – in a morning television interview and later at a news conference – amounted to her strongest defense to date of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, whose campaign has denied the allegation of Tara Reade, who worked for Biden while he served as a senator from Delaware.

“I want to remove all doubt in anyone’s mind: I have great comfort level with the situation as I see it, with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden,” Pelosi said at a weekly news conference.

She added that she is confident that Biden “will be a great president of the United States.”

Her comments matched those from a couple of hours earlier, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” when Pelosi said she has “great sympathy” for women who bring forward sexual assault claims and considers herself a “big strong supporter of the #MeToo movement.”

“And I do support Joe Biden,” Pelosi added. “I’m satisfied with how he has responded. I know him. I was proud to endorse him on Monday, very proud to endorse him. And so I’m satisfied with that.”

Pressed on whether Biden should speak out himself about the accusation, Pelosi did not directly answer.

“It’s a matter that he has to deal with it, but I am impressed with people who worked with him at the time saying they absolutely never heard one iota of information about this,” she said. “Nobody ever brought forth a claim or had anybody else tell them about such a claim.”

Pelosi then pivoted to talking about the importance of the upcoming election against President Trump, the Republican incumbent.

“We have an important election at hand, one of the most important ones we’ve had … and I supported (Biden) because he’s a person of great values, integrity, authenticity, imagination and connection to the American people,” she said.

Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus March 12 in Wilmington, Del. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Reade, who worked for Biden for nine months ending in 1993, said in interviews with The Washington Post last year that Biden put his hands on her shoulders and neck when she was working in his Senate office.

She said she had complained about it to three senior aides in the office, but those aides told The Post they had no recollection of Reade making a claim.

Last month, in a podcast interview, Reade alleged that Biden assaulted her after pushing her against a wall somewhere on Capitol Hill.

Separately Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., predicted that Biden would have to release Senate documents housed at the University of Delaware that are currently private and could shed light on whether Reade issued a complaint at the time.

“Well, look, when you run for president of the United States, your life is an open book,” McConnell said during an appearance on Fox News. “And I can’t imagine that vice president Biden is not going to have to participate in releasing all of the information related to the allegations. It’s a very challenging thing to run for president, and I think everyone who’s done that has realized that their entire life is opened up to scrutiny. And I think that’s happening to Vice President Biden, and they shouldn’t be surprised.”

On Wednesday, Lynda LaCasse, a former neighbor of Reade’s, told The Post in a text message that when they lived near each other in 1995 and 1996, Reade told her that “Joe Biden sexually assaulted her.”

“She said that he had put her up against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and his fingers inside her,” LaCasse said.

She did not offer other details, referring The Post to Business Insider, which published an interview with LaCasse on Monday.

Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in California, was quoted by Business Insider as saying that Reade had told her she “had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in D.C. and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.”

A 1993 call to Larry King’s CNN talk show also has surfaced in recent days. In the clip, a woman whom Reade identified as her now-deceased mother called to report unspecified “problems” her daughter was having with her employer, whom she called “a prominent senator.” The caller said her daughter did not want to go public with her account “out of respect for” the unnamed senator.

The Post published an in-depth examination of her account two weeks ago, in which one of her friends confirmed that Reade had told her of the incident shortly after she said it occurred.

Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, also told The Post that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders. Several days after the interview, he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand “under her clothes.”

Several women last year said Biden had been overly affectionate in a way that made them uncomfortable. Reade’s accusation that Biden had penetrated her was the first allegation of sexual assault made against him.

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips and Matt Viser contributed to this report.


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