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Evaluating Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden

Biden on fracking

It is critical to compare the media’s coverage of Tara Reade to its coverage of Christine Blasey Ford. It’s critical to do the same for the left’s treatment of both, even extending the comparison to Democrats’ treatment of men like former Sen. Al Franken. These parallels are instructive. They reveal dangerous hypocrisy. They are not, however, helpful in adjudicating Joe Biden’s guilt.

The way such actors collectively processed Ford’s allegation was wrong. With much more corroborating evidence, Reade’s allegation clears the standard of credibility the media and the left applied to Ford, even though they’ve shifted that same standard for Biden’s accuser. But that standard is much too low and should not be used to fairly weigh Reade’s allegation.

Here, the media and the left are running into a problem of their own creation. It’s tough to know exactly what did or did not transpire between Biden and Reade in 1993. They’re now bumping into that inconvenient reality, despite failing to acknowledge it when the political outcome was more favorable.

Of course, since Me Too’s genesis in 2017, we’ve all had to learn to adjudicate guilt in situations like these, where the court of public opinion necessarily replaces the court of law and disturbing allegations against powerful men stem from incidents years in the past. The process should be better now than it was in 2017 and 2018, because we should be learning from our mistakes. That doesn’t make it a cinch.

The Allegation

Reade’s allegation is highly descriptive. She has been visibly distraught when recounting aspects of her story, which accuses a married Biden of pushing her against a wall, kissing her, and forcibly penetrating her with his fingers under her skirt. We know she worked for Biden. We know her last month working in his Senate office fits the timeframe she’s provided. We know Biden has a record of overstepping physical boundaries with women, in line with Reade’s 2019 allegations of inappropriate touching against him.

Most importantly, evidence corroborates her claim that she told others at the time. Reade’s brother and a friend have both confirmed to media outlets that she mentioned the alleged assault after it occurred in 1993. (Her brother did, however, follow up with the Washington Post days after his initial interview to clarify he remembered the sexual assault, not just inappropriate touching.)

A former neighbor who supports Biden’s White House bid has stepped forward to say Reade told her about the assault in the mid-’90s as well, with the same basic story by which she stands now. Another woman with whom Reade worked in the mid-’90s says Reade told her “she had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in D.C., and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.”

We also know that Reade, now 56, told the media her mother called into “Larry King Live” about the incident after it happened, and that The Intercept and the Media Research Center were subsequently able to verify this by finding the transcript and video clip respectively.

So what we know with near certainty is that Reade told friends and family that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. What we do not know is whether she was truthful at the time. Given that Reade didn’t seem to go to the press (her mother specifically asked King how to resolve the issue without going to the press), it’s difficult to know what her incentive for lying only to her own friends and family might have been.

Questions Remain

Still, there are elements of her story that raise questions. Biden, of course, has denied the allegation through his campaign. Reade does not remember the date or exact location of the assault, but claims it occurred in a “side area” which she has described as “semiprivate” and “not completely private,” somewhere in the Russell building or Capitol. Assaulting a staffer and committing adultery outside a private room in the bustling complex seems like an enormously stupid risk, even beyond the risk of committing a crime or cheating on your wife that powerful men sometimes take.

Biden is also not dogged by a pattern of allegations involving forcible penetration. No record of a serious allegation on this level exists against him. That is not, of course, to argue nothing similar ever happened, but after the wave of Me Too scrutiny against our elite class, and news cycles about Biden’s inappropriate touching, if this behavior were a pattern, it’s likely more allegations would have surfaced. No, he doesn’t have to have a pattern of assault to have assaulted Reade. But men guilty of this sort of behavior typically do.

Three of the Biden aides Reade claims to have complained of harassment to in 1993 strongly deny knowledge of such a complaint. If they took no action to address Reade’s complaints, they would have incentives to protect themselves and the Democratic nominee. On the other hand, Reade believes a record of a complaint she filed with a Senate personnel office exists in Biden’s Senate archive, housed at the University of Delaware and sealed until two years after his exit from public life.

It would thus be unwise for the aides to issue vigorous denials if such a record does exist, and Reade is aggressively demanding the school unseal its documents. The university is refusing to disclose the terms of its two-year agreement with Biden.

While Reade’s past praise of Vladimir Putin is certainly unusual, to suspect it has any connection with her allegation, of which we have corroborating video evidence from 1993, requires buying into a very deep conspiracy.

Reade accused Biden of inappropriately touching her neck and hair in media interviews last year, but stopped much short of telling the story she’s telling now. Reade says she feared retribution at the time. In fairness, the potential consequences for stepping forward to share allegations of inappropriate touching against a presidential candidate—allegations other women are making—and stepping forward to share an allegation of forcible penetration against a presidential nominee are obviously different.

The timing of her new media interviews is interesting as well, but there’s also a record of Reade trying to get 2020 Democrats’ attention on Twitter before the primary narrowed to Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who she has supported. Reade also claims to have contacted the presidential campaigns of Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren with information about Biden, both of which declined to pursue an investigation into her story. Neither senator’s office returned The Federalist’s request for comment on whether they were made aware of Reade’s effort to contact them.

What to Do Next?

If Reade is telling the truth, she is the victim of a terrible attack. Her bravery in stepping forward would also be exposing a deep moral flaw in a man running to be president. But so long as the only two people involved in the alleged incident insist on different stories, we will never be able to assess the veracity of Reade’s claims with certainty.

That means it’s now up to voters to weigh the evidence, determine who they believe, determine whether there’s even a way to do that with reasonable confidence, and then determine whether Biden’s alleged conduct is disqualifying. For those who determine the story is credible and the behavior is disqualifying, supporters of the president should also review such allegations against him, and then confront the deeply unpleasant matter of deciding how to vote.

What we have is a 27-year-old allegation of sexual assault and adultery against the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president. Nobody knows what happened except Biden and Reade. Based on available evidence, we can at least be nearly certain Reade’s story has been consistent since 1993. That gives her credibility, enough credibility that Biden needs to address the allegation personally.

Comparing Reade’s allegation with Ford’s does, indeed, produce a clearcut case study in hypocrisy on the part of the media and the left. There is much to be said on that point. But it’s entirely secondary to the real matter at hand, which is whether Joe Biden sexually assaulted Tara Reade. Coming to a reasonable conclusion on that question should be everyone’s first priority. Hearing from Biden himself is the next big step.