Joe Biden, silent over accuser, launches VP search committee
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Thursday unveiled a committee to help him search for and vet a running mate in his White House race against Donald Trump.
The step comes as Biden faces mounting pressure to address allegations by a former aide that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, and as top Democrats came to the party icon's defense.
Biden has pledged to pick a woman to serve alongside him as vice president, a position he himself held for eight years during Barack Obama's presidency.
"Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden," his campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement.
The committee co-chairs are former senator Chris Dodd; congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Cynthia Hogan, a former counsel to Biden.
"These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process," O'Malley Dillon said.
The committee's formation comes amid increasing pressure for Biden to address allegations that in 1993, he assaulted a 29-year-old staff assistant who worked in his US Senate office.
Biden's campaign has denied the incident ever took place, but the 77-year-old has not personally responded to the claims by Tara Reade, now 56.
- Pelosi defends -
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who this week endorsed Biden for president, addressed the issue at her Thursday press conference, which focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
"I have complete respect for the Me Too movement" against sexual harassment, Pelosi said.
But she stressed that "there was never any record" about the assault, and "nobody ever came forward to say something about it apart from the principal involved" until 27 years later.
Biden is "a person of great values" who has fought for women's rights throughout his career, she said.
"I have great comfort level 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."
The House's top Republican, Kevin McCarthy, for his part said Pelosi endorsed Biden after the Reade accusations surfaced, even though she has staunchly advocated for the need to hear women who accuse men of misconduct.
"If (Pelosi) thinks his lack of response is a good enough response, then to me that's being a hypocrite based upon the past comments she made on other situations similar to this," McCarthy said in a press call.
Biden, relegated to campaigning from home due to the coronavirus crisis, appeared on an Instagram live chat Thursday with soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, but the issue was not addressed.
Several women seen as candidates to be Biden's running mate, including Senator Kamala Harris and former Georgia state lawmaker Stacey Abrams, have expressed support for Biden regarding the allegations.
"I know Joe Biden and I think he's telling the truth and this did not happen," Abrams told CNN Tuesday.
Biden said Wednesday he had a proud history of campaigning against sexual violence, including writing the Violence Against Women Act and supporting policies that help bring justice to assault victims who are university students or in the military.
The Reade allegations present a thorny problem for Biden's campaign.
Harris and Senator Amy Klobuchar, another potential running mate, played leading roles in opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court over unproven accusations that he sexually assaulted a woman at a high school party in the 1980s.