Newly surfaced video from 1993 appears to feature the mother of Tara Reade, a woman who accused presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of sexual assault, calling into a cable TV show to seek advice around the time of the alleged assault.
In a “Larry King Live” segment that aired on August 11, 1993, on CNN, an unnamed woman calls in to the show with her location identified on the screen as San Luis Obispo, California. The show was about the cutthroat nature of Washington, DC, politics and media.
“Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington?” she asks. “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.”
Larry King responds: “In other words, she had a story to tell but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?”
“That’s true,” the caller says.
The woman does not mention sexual assault or harassment, nor does she describe in any detail what “problems” she might be referring to. Her daughter’s name and Biden are also not mentioned.
In a phone interview with CNN Friday night, Reade told CNN that she is certain the voice in the video belongs to her mother, Jeanette Altimus, who died a few years ago.
“I’ve been crying because I haven’t heard my mom’s voice in a few years. So it’s been a little emotional,” Reade said. “I miss her. I miss her voice.”
CNN separately confirmed that Altimus lived in San Luis Obispo around the time of the newly surfaced clip from “Larry King Live.” The Intercept first reported on the interview.
The Biden campaign declined to comment on the video, referring CNN to statements it previously released denying Reade’s sexual assault allegation. Those statements include one from Biden’s executive assistant at the time of the allegation who said she never received any complaints.
The 1993 assault allegation
CNN had previously reached out to Reade multiple times but she had not agreed to be interviewed prior to Friday. In that phone interview, she shared similar details of the sexual assault allegation she had told in recent weeks to multiple media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press.
She told CNN that in 1993, when she was working as an aide in Biden’s Senate office, she was asked to deliver a duffle bag to the then-Delaware senator. In a corridor somewhere in the Capitol Hill complex, Reade said Biden “had me up against the wall; he used his knee to spread open my legs,” and “put his fingers inside me.”
Reade said when she pulled away, Biden said to her, “Come on man. I heard — I thought you liked me.” Biden then looked angry, according to Reade, and said, “You are nothing to me. You are nothing.” She said that Biden eventually took her by the shoulders and said words to the effect of, “You’re OK. You’re fine,” before walking away.
Reade said on the night of the alleged assault she spoke on the phone with her mother, who was “adamant” that she call the police. She said she did not call the police. Reade said she recalls her mother telling her sometime after the alleged assault that she had called into Larry King’s show.
“I think what makes me emotional is that I was really hard on her and I said, ‘Why would you do that, it’s scary to me,'” Reade told CNN. “I had told her not to do that and she did and she did it on her own and I know now. I wish I could go back and I could hug her and say thank you for being a good mom and trying to protect me.”
The New York Times spoke with a friend of Reade’s, who said Reade had told her about the alleged assault at the time; a second friend said Reade told her in 2008 that Biden had touched her inappropriately. The Times said it also had spoken with nearly two dozen people who worked with Biden in the early 1990s, and none corroborated Reade’s allegation.
The Washington Post interviewed Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, who told the paper that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had “behaved inappropriately by touching her neck and shoulders” but not about the alleged sexual assault. Several days after that interview with Reade’s brother, the Post said, “he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand ‘under her clothes.'”
Reached by text message on Saturday, Moulton told CNN that Reade told him in the early 1990s that she had been asked to bring Biden his gym bag, and that in a private setting, he had cornered her against the wall and put his hands under her clothes.
“My mom wanted her to go to the police,” he said.
Moulton also said he remembered Reade telling him that she had been asked to serve drinks at an event for Biden because she had “nice legs,” and that Biden had touched her shoulders and neck.
Reade told the Times that she had filed a complaint about Biden with the Senate in 1993 but that she did not have a copy of it; the Times said it could not locate it.
Reade filed a police report in Washington about the alleged assault earlier this month. CNN obtained the incident report from DC police — it states that “Subject-1 disclosed that she was the victim of a sexual assault which was committed by Subject-2 in 1993.”
Last year, Reade had publicly alleged that Biden had made her feel uncomfortable by touching her neck and shoulders. Reade told CNN that this resulted in death threats, and that a victim advocate had advised her to speak to the police.
Biden campaign’s denial
In a statement provided to CNN, Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, denied Reade’s allegation, calling it “untrue.”
“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,” Bedingfield said. “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.”
The campaign also shared a statement from Marianne Baker, who was Biden’s executive assistant in the 1980s and 1990s when he was a senator. Reade told the Times that she had complained to Baker and two other aides about harassment by Biden, but not about the alleged assault.
“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. I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager,” Baker said. “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.”
Baker also said that dozens of employees had reported to her over the years, and that Biden himself had fostered “a professional workplace” environment in his Senate office.
Last year, multiple women publicly came forward to say that Biden had made them feel uncomfortable in the way that he physically interacted with them. None of them accused him of sexual assault.
The New York Times reported that it recently interviewed the women who made these complaints and that “they did not have any new information about their experiences to add,” but that several of them said they believed Reade’s new allegation.
Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman, described an encounter with Biden in 2014 where she said he had made her feel “uneasy, gross and confused” by coming up from behind her and kissing the back of her head.
At the time, Biden said that in all of his years as a public figure, “not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”