Michigan governor defends Biden over sexual assault claim: 'I know Joe'

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said today: 'I know Joe Biden, and I've watched his defence and there's not a pattern that goes into this'

World | The Independent

The governor of Michigan has defended Joe Biden against a sexual assault allegation, saying she believes the presumptive Democratic nominee's denials and added that she resents having to answer such questions as a survivor of sexual assault herself.

Gretchen Whitmer, currently seen as a top choice to serve as the former vice president’s running mate in the race against Donald Trump, told CNN that she had been heavily researching the allegation made by Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer to Mr Biden.

“I know Joe Biden, and I’ve watched his defence and there’s not a pattern that goes into this,” Ms Whitmer, a former prosecutor and state lawmaker, told CNN’s Jake Tapper about the accusation against Mr Biden. “I think for these reasons, I’m very comfortable that Joe Biden is who he says he is.”

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The governor then sought to tamp down any follow-up questions about the controversial allegation, which has garnered national news in recent days as Mr Biden appears set to secure the party’s Democratic nomination.

“And you know what? That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Ms Whitmer said. “I really resent the fact that every time a case comes up all of us survivors have to weigh in.”

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She added: “It is reopening wounds and it is, take us at our word, ask us for our opinion, and let’s move on.”

The governor said that sexual assault survivors feel a “simmering anger” about seemingly having to represent other victims when high-profile allegations take over the national news cycle.

Ms Reade has accused Mr Biden of assaulting her when she worked for him as a Senate staffer on Capitol Hill in the 1990s. The accusations have come under intense scrutiny after she appeared to advance her previous claims of uncomfortable behaviour on the part of Mr Biden to outright assault in the final months of the Democratic primaries.

The former staffer said she complained about how she was treated in the office to other aides, who have said they do not recall such conversations. She also said she never filed an official complaint and made no mention of assault or harassment on a form she filed about the allegations with a congressional personnel office.

While Ms Whitmer has largely avoided answering questions about serving as a running mate to Mr Biden, she has praised the former vice president in a series of interviews in recent weeks after endorsing him for the White House.

“We’re cut from a similar cloth,” she told Politico about herself and Mr Biden. “I’m grateful for the friendship, and that’s — you know, everything that I’m doing right now is focused on helping the people of my state through this crisis.”

However, her state’s lockdown orders have resulted in demonstrators taking to the streets and demanding Michigan be reopened for business despite the coronavirus pandemic. Ms Whitmer announced some of the most restrictive stay-at-home guidelines in the country after the state saw one of the first significant outbreaks of Covid-19 in the US. It remains unclear for now whether the protests will jeopardise Ms Whitmer’s potential placement on the ticket.

On Sunday, Ms Whitmer told CNN that “we have to listen to the epidemiologists and health experts” while slamming the demonstrations in the state capitol, saying the protesters, some of whom brandished swastikas, Confederate flags and assault rifles, were not “representative of who we are”.

Mr Biden has vowed to select a female VP nominee, and previously said Ms Whitmer joined his list of possible picks shortly after she delivered the official Democratic response to Mr Trump’s State of the Union address in February.

She told Politico earlier this month she would be “the most enthusiastic supporter of [a] Biden-whomever ticket.”

“I would include people like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and Stacey Abrams and Amy Klobuchar and Val Demings,” she said. “You know, I think that there really is a great — there’s a huge class of highly competent women leaders across this country that would, I think, be fantastic.”

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