First-term U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who won the DFL endorsement in her re-election bid, told the Sunday Times of London that she believes Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer who has leveled sexual assault allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I do believe Reade,” Omar told the newspaper in an interview that ran Sunday, the same day she won the DFL endorsement. “Justice can be delayed but should never be denied.”
In a subsequent tweet on Monday, Omar said “believing survivors is consistent with my values,” but added she will still vote for Biden and help him defeat President Donald Trump.
Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, has flatly denied Reade’s claims, which have grown in different interviews she has given to journalists. Her original accounts of an incident she said took place at that Capitol in the early 1990s did not include sexual assault.
Omar’s remarks, made in a May 6 interview, make her the first major Democratic figure in Minnesota to give credence to Reade’s allegations, which have reverberated in the #MeToo movement that has brought down major figures in politics, entertainment and the media. She also told the newspaper that if it were up to her, Biden wouldn’t be the presidential candidate.
Omar was a prominent supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has suspended his campaign and thrown his support behind Biden. Another prominent Sanders supporter in the Minnesota DFL, Attorney General Keith Ellison, has yet to publicly endorsed Biden.
Republicans have used Reade’s allegations to attack Biden and accuse his Democratic backers of hypocrisy for dismissing her claims. Many other leading Democrats, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a potential vice-presidential pick, have supported Biden.
Biden, dealing with the fallout from the #MeToo movement, said in a recent MSNBC interview that “If they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn’t vote for me.”
Omar, answering critics on Twitter on Monday, suggested that “quotes aren’t always in context.” But she did not say which quotes, or whether her published statements about Reade were misconstrued.
Her campaign spokesman did not immediately return a request to confirm the statements attributed to her in newspaper.
Omar won the DFL endorsement in a single round of balloting Sunday with 65% of the party vote. Her main challenger, attorney and mediator Antone Melton-Meaux, received nearly 31%.
Melton-Meaux, criticizing Omar’s penchant for controversy, has vowed to continue his challenge in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.
“Ilhan Omar’s insistence on propping up a serious allegation without evidence against our presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is not only wrongheaded but dangerous,” Melton-Meaux said in a statement Monday. “Casually promoting right wing attacks to smear Vice President Biden because he’s not your preferred kind of Democrat shows that Rep. Omar does not take seriously the stakes of this election.”
Responding to social media posts accusing her of sowing discord among Democrats, Omar vowed to still campaign for Biden.
“We can’t fend off perceived attacks with attacks on others,” she tweeted Monday. “This is the most important election cycle of our lifetimes and we aren’t going to have a chance if we don’t spend our energy mobilizing and building enthusiasm against Trump. That’s the goal we should all be united on.”
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