Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has had a serious sexual assault accusation leveled at him in the past month that has been corroborated by several people, yet the candidate remained silent until Friday morning, when – amid growing pressure within Democratic circles – he finally spoke directly and denied the claims of former staff assistant Tara Reade.
Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, had said an allegation by Reade, who served in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, is untrue. But until Friday, Biden himself had not said a word about it since the New York Times published a story on Reade’s allegation in early April.
Reade alleges that as a staffer for Biden, he pinned her against a wall, reached under her skirt and pushed his fingers inside her. When she resisted, Biden appeared annoyed and said, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.” Reade said when she pulled away, anger kind of emanated from Biden. She said, “He pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing.’ ” She said that after telling her supervisors in the office that she had been sexually harassed by Biden, she was ostracized and ultimately fired.
These are serious claims, and one has to wonder – if they are, in fact, true – why her supervisors would treat a victim as they did by firing her.
Several people have come forward to say that Reade told them of the alleged encounter at the time.
Lynda LaCasse, a Biden supporter, was Reade’s neighbor in the mid-1990s and said Reade told her about how Biden allegedly put her up against a wall, put his fingers in her skirt and put his fingers inside her. LaCasse said Reade told her how she felt like she was assaulted but she did not feel there was anything she could do. She said Reade cried as she talked.
Reade’s brother, Collin Moutlon, said he recalls Reade telling him in the 1990s that Biden cornered her and put his hands under her clothes while kissing her.
Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altinus, has told interviewers that Reade confided in her at the time of the alleged assault. Altinus died in 2016, but Reade recalled that her mother called CNN’s “Larry King Live” and anonymously described trouble her daughter had had with a senator. The Intercept unearthed the 1993 video clip, in which an unnamed woman from San Luis Obispo, Calif., told King that her daughter just left Washington “after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.” Reade told the Intercept the voice on the call was her mother’s.
This obviously has the Biden camp very worried, despite strong denials the campaign has issued to various media outlets. According to reports, Biden aides are taking Reade “seriously enough behind the scenes to coordinate messaging among other Democrats to try to cast the matter as one that’s been thoroughly vetted and determined to be unfounded.” It’s also odd that the Biden campaign apparently urged the New York Times to change some of the language used in its story. To his credit, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet defended his paper’s reporting on the Biden accuser.
In light of the Biden camp trying to coordinate messaging among Democrats, attempting to change the language in a news story and Biden’s continued silence, it is not unreasonable to come to the potential conclusion that there is something to Reade’s story.
While we understand that news organizations must devote a great deal of their time and resources lately to COVID-19 coverage, it is disappointing that some news outlets – such as MSNBC and others – are not giving the air time that these most serious allegations deserve. Overall, the media coverage of Reade’s allegations has been noticeably muted compared to its handling of claims against other high-profile political figures, such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
This is quite unfortunate and shows bias in who certain networks choose to attack, such as Kavanaugh, and who they favor, such as Biden. Go back and look at the Kavanaugh hearings to see the viciousness of some media outlets toward him.
More concerning, however, is the silence on Reade’s claims by senators who persecuted Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings. Several hypocritical Democratic senators support Biden for president now but didn’t hold back in their condemnation of Kavanugh and in their calls for accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s claims to be fully investigated.
Following the Kavanaugh hearings, when he was a victim of vicious character assassination, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in a floor speech in opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Oct. 4, 2018, “Republicans are playing politics with the Supreme Court, and they are willing to step on anyone – including the victim of a vicious sexual assault – in order to advance their agenda.” Warren, an attorney by trade, made the claims that Ford was a victim of a vicious sexual assault based on hearsay, innuendo and no corroborating witness.
A report on Fox News’ website said the network reached out to Warren for comment multiple times on the Reade allegations. As of Wednesday, she had not responded. Fox News was also unable to find any public comments from Warren on the Reade allegation, which broke more than a month ago.
Warren’s silence clearly shows a person who believes alleged sexual assault victims only if their claims can be used to her party’s advantage, but not alleged sexual assault victims whose stories have been corroborated by several people, unlike Ford’s.
In a Sept. 26, 2018, floor speech opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y., said, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford. Here’s why I believe her: She’s risked everything – her own safety – to come out on the record to say Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. She told her therapist and her husband about it five years ago. She told a friend about it a year ago. She told a reporter about it before Kavanaugh was ever named. She’s even taken a lie detector test. So why are my colleagues moving so fast – as fast as they possibly can – to confirm this judge?”
Again, Ford had no corroborators, Reade has several. Mrs. Gillibrand, we would submit to you that Reade has risked everything, even her own safety, to come on the record to say Biden sexually assaulted her.
Gillibrand responded to a reporter’s question several days ago about whether there is a “contradiction” in how Democrats have handled the Biden allegations versus the Kavanaugh allegations. “No, and I stand by Vice President Biden,” she said. “He has devoted his life to supporting women and he has vehemently denied this allegation.”
Of course, there is a clear contradiction. But once again, Gillibrand, like Warren, only supports women who claim they were victims of sexual assault at the hands of the powerful if it benefits the Democratic Party.
As a people, shouldn’t we put politics aside when it comes to a potential legitimate sexual assault allegations that are corroborated by several people?
We certainly think so.
One final contradiction comes from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. In an Oct. 6, 2018, floor speech opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Shaheen said, “Her, Dr. Ford’s, testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee was sincere and credible, and I believe her. ... Dr. Ford’s bravery has given so many women in this country the courage to tell their stories. She gave others courage and we have seen an outpouring from survivors who now feel like they too can come forward. … These wounds are real. The wounds are raw. And it is incumbent on all of us in this body, regardless of where you stand on Brett Kavanaugh; it’s incumbent on all of us to not deepen those scars by diminishing the pain of these women as political theatre. This is not political theater, and it should not be viewed through a partisan lens.”
As with Warren, the same Fox News report said Shaheen has neither responded to the network’s request for comment nor made any public statements about the allegation.
Again, why the continued silence from members of Biden’s party, especially from these senators who unfairly and shamefully crucified Kavanaugh and his family during his confirmation hearings?
U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. – both potential vice presidential selections – have praised Biden when asked about Reade’s allegations in recent interviews.
These two senators also crucified Kavanugh and were involved in character assassination in his confirmation hearings. Once again, they believed Ford’s story but don’t believe Reade’s story that has been corroborated by several, and they’re praising Biden. Shouldn’t they take Reade’s allegations seriously like they did Ford’s? One would think so, but again it doesn’t benefit them or their party to actually speak out for someone who might have actually been sexually assaulted by a man they’re praising.
It’s a total double standard on their parts, as well as among some cable networks, and a contradiction, especially from the party that thrived on the #MeToo movement.
As the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Biden is not off limits and is fair game for the media to ask hard questions about these most serious allegations.
On Friday, Biden finally released a statement strongly denying Reade’s allegations, then repeated his denials in an appearance on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” He said he will ask the National Archives to determine whether there is any record of a complaint being filed by Reade.
To her credit, “Morning Joe” cohost Mika Brzezinski pressed Biden on how his denial of Reade’s claims can coexist with his comments during the Kavanaugh situation, when he said of Ford: “In the glaring light of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”
“What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was that she had a right to be heard,” Biden responded Friday while appearing somewhat flustered. “The fact that she came forward, the presumption would be that she was telling the truth unless she wasn’t telling the truth.”
Brzezinski also pushed Biden to release records from his University of Delaware archives that might pertain to Reade. In an awkward exchange that followed, Biden ultimately seemed to reject the idea of doing that.
Reade had the courage to take her allegations public, as did those corroborating her story, and we are proud of her and of them for doing so. Considering he had weeks to prepare a response, Biden’s performance Friday was shaky, to say the least, and likely did little to ease the concerns of voters who have followed Reade’s allegations.
We appreciate that Biden finally showed some courage himself and responded directly to Reade’s claims, but this issue clearly will linger for months and warrants further investigation and press coverage. We certainly hope it begins to receive the attention it deserves.