U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday denied an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a former Senate staffer 27 years ago, saying "this never happened."
In his first detailed response to the allegation from Tara Reade, the former U.S. vice president said that while "women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced," their allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault "should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny."
Urging media to "examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies" of Reade's claims, Biden said news organizations that interviewed former staffers of his office found no one "who corroborated her allegations in any way," adding that his office and he himself "would not have tolerated harassment in any way."
Speaking of the allegation against him during an interview with MSNBC on Friday morning, Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said, "No, it is not true. I'm saying unequivocally it never, never happened."
At the center of the scandal is an allegation made in March by Reade, a former aide in Biden's Senate office, that she was sexually assaulted in 1993 on Capitol Hill by Biden, who was a senator from Delaware at that time.
Biden, who is to take on President Donald Trump -- who has also faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct but denied all of them -- in the general election later this year, has been under mounting pressure from several women's right groups to address the issue. His slow response has even frustrated some Democrats.
"I think he should respond," Trump said of Biden on Thursday. "It could be false accusations."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, told reporters on the same day that she has "a great comfort level of the situation with the situation as I see it, with all due respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden."
Biden's direct response to the matter came as he formally began selecting his running mates. Among his potential running mates are Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California, as well as former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams, who have voiced support for him despite the allegation.