Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has spoken out in support of Joe Biden, telling CNN that when it comes to accusations of sexual assault, “not every claim is equal”.
“We need to give people an opportunity to tell their story,” Whitmer said. “Then we have a duty to vet it.”
Tara Reade, a former congressional aide, alleges Biden assaulted her in a Senate corridor in 1993. Last month, she filed a complaint with police in Washington DC.
Biden, 79, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has denied the allegation and called for Reade’s original complaint to a congressional personnel office to be located.
He has also committed to naming a woman as his running mate for the campaign against Donald Trump. Whitmer is thought to be in the frame.
Pressed on CNN’s State of the Union over whether her support for Biden was hypocritical, given her view of allegations against the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh, Whitmer said “there is not a pattern” of sexual abuse allegations against Biden.
She then disputed anchor Jake Tapper’s framing of the question around her being a woman and a survivor of sexual assault.
“Just because you’re a survivor doesn’t mean that every claim is equal,” she argued. “It means we give them the ability to make their case. And then to make a judgment that is informed.”
Tapper said the question was asked because Whitmer was the only Democrat on his show.
On Saturday, Reade disputed an Associated Press report in which she is reported as having said that she had not explicitly referenced sexual harassment or assault in her original complaint.
“This is false,” Reade tweeted.
She maintains that she neither has a copy of the complaint nor remembers specific details of its content, telling NBC News she is “not sure” what wording she used.
Reade did not provide any information about what, if anything, in the AP report was false.
Skeptics have focused on other inconsistencies in her story, including evolving details of the alleged assault. Former colleagues have also disputed her claims to have reported the incident to them directly and to have been forced out of her job for speaking up.
Senior Democrats continue to rally round Biden. On Sunday the party chair, Tom Perez, dismissed calls for the Democratic National Committee to launch an investigation.
Biden is an “open book” who has been thoroughly vetted, the former labor secretary told ABC’s This Week, adding: “[The Obama administration] looked at the entire history of Joe Biden, his entire career. If Barack Obama had any indication that there was an issue, Barack Obama would not have had him as his vice-president.
“Barack Obama trusted Joe Biden. I trust Joe Biden. And those investigations have been done.”
Biden has refused to authorize the release of Senate documents stored at the University of Delaware, where some critics say a record of Reade’s complaint may be stored. In an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Biden argued the files would not contain personnel records.
Some observers said Biden’s response was only fueling the fire Republicans are determined to turn his way. On Sunday Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said Biden’s denials were not enough.
“We’ve seen him really be challenged for the first time in five weeks on allegations that many in the media have ignored, and finally, those are coming to light,” she told ABC.
McDaniel did not address allegations against Trump, who was memorably recorded bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without consent.
Trump denies claims of sexual misconduct and assault made by more than a dozen women. According to a report in the Daily Beast, he appears to doubt Reade’s claim.