“I would sit down and talk to her and try to be encouraging and supportive,” said Wrye, who noted Reade “had heart and some good qualities.”
“This lack of money was hugely problematic for her, she was always on the ropes in that way.”
Reade had spoken highly of Biden, the former boss who employed her as a staff assistant from late 1992 to August 1993, and never mentioned assault or harassment, Wrye recalls. But what Wrye remembers most is that by the time Reade left their property and moved on, Wrye felt burned.
After her husband suffered a brain injury that forced the couple to sell the property, Wrye said, Reade turned on them.
“She became really difficult,” Wrye said. “She said, ‘You’re going to have to pay me to get me to leave.’”
“She was manipulative,” said Wrye, a self-described feminist and social activist. “She was always saying she was going to get it together, but she couldn’t. And ‘could you help her’?”
Wrye’s distressing experience with Reade wasn’t an isolated case. Over the past decade, Reade has left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her — she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.
As part of an investigation into Reade’s allegations against Biden — charges that are already shaping the contours of his campaign against a president who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women — POLITICO interviewed more than a dozen people, many of whom interacted with Reade through her involvement in the animal-rescue community.
A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills.
The people quoted in this article provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence. POLITICO also reviewed dozens of public records, including court documents, divorce filings and Reade’s 2012 bankruptcy records.
The accounts paint a picture of Reade’s life in the years leading up to her allegations, in which she spoke often of her connection to Biden but also of troubles in her personal life and a need for money. Sexual abuse victims sometimes offer contradictory information about their alleged abusers, so her comments do not necessarily refute her claims against the former vice president. But they add weight to the evidence that she spoke positively about him in the years before she accused him of digitally penetrating her in the early ’90s.
Reached by phone, Reade declined to answer specific questions and referred the matter to her attorney, Douglas Wigdor.
Wigdor argued that Reade’s favorable comments about Biden are no different than how some of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers continued to have contact with him even after they said he abused them.
“Sort of like some of the late victims of Harvey Weinstein,” said Wigdor, who has represented several Weinstein accusers. “That is not uncommon.”
But many of those who knew her well in recent years said she frequently lied or sought to manipulate them, in many instances taking advantage of their desire to help a person they felt was down on her luck.
“You can use these words: manipulative, deceitful, user,” said Kelly Klett, an attorney who rented Reade a room in her home in 2018. “Looking back at it all now, that is exactly how I view her and how I feel about her.”
“She has a problem,” said Lynn Hummer, who owns a horse sanctuary where Reade volunteered for two years, beginning in 2014.
She described Reade as “very clever, manipulative. … I do think she’s a liar.”
Hummer provided an email from an exchange in which, within weeks of starting at the ranch, Reade asked whether she could bring her car on Hummer’s property to hide it from “the repo man.” Hummer declined.
In another instance, Reade came by the ranch desperately seeking $ 200 to pay the rent, Hummer said. On the way to Reade’s house, Hummer said she didn’t notice that Reade texted her and upped her request from $ 200 to $ 350.
Hummer also alleged Reade called a veterinarian to the ranch to service her personal horse, leaving Hummer to pay a $ 1,400 bill.
Hummer has publicly leveled that charge and others since Reade’s accusations against Biden have gone public. On social media last month, Reade denied them.
“A lawyer will be in contact with you for defaming me,” Reade said over Twitter. “You may not continue to spread false information regarding my life.”
In a brief conversation, Reade said she hoped POLITICO was doing its own reporting and not relying on a March post published on Medium that she said was false.
“I’ve been getting friends calling me and crying and saying ‘I never said that,’” Reade said.
Wigdor took issue with the premise of this article, saying such scrutiny discourages victims of sexual violence from coming forward.
“If the assertion is that someone who has lied to their landlord because they don’t have the money to pay rent so then they lied about a sexual assault, I don’t think that is fair journalism,” Wigdor said in an interview.
Like Wrye, Austin Chung, a Monterey-area real estate investor who rented Reade a house from 2008-10, learned of Reade’s charges against Biden from television.
“Look,” he told his wife when he first saw Reade on the screen, “she has gone big time. She’s going after the big fish now.”
Chung said Reade, who went by Alexandra McCabe at the time, claimed that she was on the run from domestic violence and trying to start over.
In 1996, a judge in San Luis Obispo Superior Court authorized a temporary restraining order against Reade’s then-husband. At the time, the couple had a young daughter together. They later divorced.
Her former husband has denied her claims.
Chung said Reade led him to believe she had just broken up with her ex-husband. He was so moved by Reade’s story, he said, that he did extra work on the house to prepare it for her and her daughter, who today is an adult. Chung provided emails showing he offered Reade the pick of paint colors for their rooms and the type of flooring in the Pacific Grove home he rented her.
But then the payments came in late, month after month. Her explanations always sounded sincere and convincing, Chung said, so he reduced her rent and tried to come up with a compromise. Eventually, however, he had to evict Reade.
When he returned to the house he had once fixed up for her, he said the floors had been damaged by animal waste. In the end, Chung recounted, he lost thousands of dollars in court-related fees, lost rent and repair costs.
When he confronted her, Chung said, “She knew exactly what she had done to me and there was no remorse. I knew there was never a chance I’d get my money back.”
Chung said he is in contact with others who have had similarly unpleasant run-ins with Reade.
“Did she think that all of the people she ran over would just roll over and die and forget about her? No. I recognize her face,” he said.
“We are actually starting to find each other and put the pieces together because we saw her face on CNN,” Chung said. “I thought to myself, ‘hey, I have a support group now. I think we are Alexandra/Tara survivors.”
One of them is Klett, who first met Reade in 2018, when Reade showed up at Klett’s 30-acre equestrian expanse in Santa Cruz County asking to rent a room.
Reade shared that she had been a victim of domestic abuse and was taking some time to study for the bar exam. Reade, who graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2004, asked Klett if she could have a break on rent. She also dropped a big political name, said Klett.
“She spoke to me about Joe Biden and her experience with him,” said Klett, who noted that Reade said she helped work on the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994. “It was positive and in a bragging sense.”
Klett, an attorney and domestic violence victims’ advocate, was sold. She took in Reade, gave her a lower rent rate and even loaned her a battery of law books and test prep materials.
But Reade struggled to make even the reduced rent payments of $ 200 a month, always asking for more time or for a pass, according to Klett. Eventually, Klett told her she had to leave.
“I’m still waiting to get my law books back,” Klett said.
Klett said she cut her losses and was polite to Reade, who continued calling even after she moved out, asking for money on multiple occasions. Klett declined the requests.
“Did she think that all of the people she ran over would just roll over and die and forget about her? No.”
Klett said she’s now struck by Reade’s allegations about Biden. Over months of talks about the law and women’s advocacy, Klett said Reade’s take on Biden never wavered. “In the time that she lived with me in close proximity,” she said, “there was never one allegation against Joe Biden that was disparaging.”
One area rancher described a different experience with Reade. Gina Kindscher, the owner of Morning Sun Ranch, whose daughter is friends with Reade, said, “She’s a wonderful person. She became part of my whole family.”
Kindscher added that she has heard Reade had run-ins with others, but, “I can only speak to my experiences with her.” Reade boarded her personal horse at Kindscher’s ranch for a part of 2017. When she couldn’t pay the boarding costs, “she would work it off” around the ranch, Kindscher said. She said she knew Reade had worked for Biden but didn’t know about the allegations until they came out.
Biden was a common theme with Reade, many of those interviewed for this story said. Five of her acquaintances have specific recollections where Reade spoke in positive terms about Biden, as recently as 2018, one year before she lodged an initial charge against Biden that he had sexually harassed her. (In 2020, Reade offered new details, claiming that Biden sexually assaulted her in a Senate hallway.)
According to their accounts, Reade proactively brought up the former vice president’s name, pointing to her time in his Senate office as a high point in her career. Those interviewed said they were under the impression that Reade spent years in his office or had played a role in helping write landmark legislation, though she actually served in a junior level position for less than a year.
“She presented it as ‘I can get my life together, I worked for Joe Biden. I had a really high-level job. I have that capacity.” Wrye said. “I’m a psychologist and she confided with me in a lot of things, but not that. She never talked about the sexual assault, period, or anything inappropriate with him.”
A former neighbor, however, told Business Insider that Reade spoke of the assault in the mid-1990s. A work colleague from around the same time told the publication that Reade complained to her of sexual harassment in Biden’s office. A document filed by Reade’s ex-husband in 1996 also states that Reade had complained of harassment.
“She never talked about the sexual assault, period, or anything inappropriate with him.”
Critics contend Reade’s history of heaping praise on Biden — including on social media — undermines her allegations today. They point to a number of occasions in early 2017 when Reade “liked” or retweeted a number of tweets favorable to Biden, including some dealing with his work against sexual assault.
After being provided with specific written questions about the allegations made against Reade in this article, Wigdor responded with this statement:
“To this day, Biden has not accounted for his actions other than to say ‘it never happened.’ Biden will not even consent to a review of his records housed at the University of Delaware. Ms. Reade, on the other hand, has answered hundreds of questions and did a sit down hour-long interview with Megyn Kelly,” Wigdor said. “Now, she is being asked to account for prior landlord tenant disputes. Enough is enough. This degrading and irrelevant inquisition does not advance the conversation. Instead, it explains why so many women suffer in silence — for fear of having their life turned upside down and questioned.”
Klett remains unconvinced.
Reade called Klett in 2019 after first publicly lodging allegations that Biden inappropriately touched her. At the time, Reade did not share details of an assault.
“I felt two things when she contacted me: that she was feeling me out to see if I would represent her pro bono. And there was a sense that she was trying to plant a story with me, so she could later say: ‘I told the story to this attorney I worked with,’” Klett said.
“I support women who have been assaulted. Unfortunately, I cannot support Tara Reade,” she said. “When she first contacted me regarding this issue, she could not provide enough credible information. And since that time the story has evolved in the media. I question her motives.”
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.