Obama Campaign's Vetting of Joe Biden Found No Tara Reade Complaint in 2008, David Axelrod Says

Former Barack Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod said their team "fully vetted" then-senator Joe Biden to be Obama's vice president in 2008 and "found no hint" of ex-aide Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations.

Axelrod, who led both of Obama's successful 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, said Biden and other potential picks for vice president and cabinet spots under the former president were subjected to "deep-dive investigations" -- and at no time in that background checking process was Reade's 1993 sexual assault complaint discussed. David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 campaign manager, agreed with Axelrod's claim, saying "not a whisper" emerged at the time of Biden's VP consideration.

Axelrod wrote an op-ed for CNN Friday declaring "had any credible issue been raised, you can be sure Biden would not have been the nominee" for Obama's vice presidential pick. Offering a defense of Biden, Axelrod acknowledged that society is finally "confronting" its long past of silencing women who were sexually assaulted -- but Reade's allegations simply don't fit the credible criteria.

"It is striking that when an experienced vetting team put Biden under a microscope before he was chosen to be second-in-line for the presidency, neither [Reade's] allegations, nor anything resembling them in Biden's history, showed up," Axelrod wrote.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

"Through that entire process, the name 'Tara Reade' never came up. No formal complaint. No informal chatter. Certainly, no intimation of sexual harassment or assault from her or anyone else. The team of investigators, expert in their work, would not have missed it," he continued.

Reade acknowledged to the Associated Press Friday that any official record of her complaint against Biden would not contain allegations of sexual assault or harassment because she "chickened out." Biden told MSNBC Friday he is unaware of any complaint against him and challenged the Senate or National Archives to release such documentation if it exists. The AP notes that Reade only started accusing Biden of sexual assault and harassment this year.

Newsweek reached out to Axelrod for a comment Saturday.

Reade accused Biden of pushing her against a wall and penetrating her genitals with his fingers, also she later filed a criminal complaint with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department that accused him of placing his hands on her shoulders or running his fingers down her neck.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

Biden and his current 2020 presidential campaign have repeatedly outright denied the accusations.

"I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished," the former vice president said in a statement via his campaign team Friday. "So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren't true. This never happened."

"Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims," Biden's Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said. "We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false."

While he said he was not on the vetting team, Axelrod wrote in the op-ed that "as senior strategist to the campaign, I was briefed on their work and potential problems."

He reiterated that the comprehensive vetting process of Biden's 36-year United States Senate career "would have turned up any formal complaints," in addition to have addressing any "salacious rumors" that he said frequently arise in Washington politics. Axelrod said neither Reade's complaint nor any other "disqualifying defects" were found anywhere in Biden's long public service record.

Biden's critics from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as well as supporters of President Donald Trump's campaign have pointed to Reade's 1993 sexual assault allegations as something Democrats and the media have failed to investigate.

david axelrod biden obama
Former Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod said their team "fully vetted" then-senator Joe Biden to be his Vice President in 2008 and "found no hint" of ex-aide Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation. Charles Ommanney / Staff/Getty Images
Obama Campaign's Vetting of Joe Biden Found No Tara Reade Complaint in 2008, David Axelrod Says | Politics