Joe Biden, Tara Reade, Sexual Assault, and the Mainstream Media

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Tara Reade (Photo of Tara from The Intercept)

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden has a history of inappropriate touching of women and young girls.  He has half-heartedly apologized for it, talking about how social habits have changed and how he’ll try to respect personal space in the future.

Tara Reade, who worked as an aide to Joe Biden in 1993, alleges Biden went further than inappropriate touching, details she recounted last month in a podcast with Katie Halper.  At the Intercept, Ryan Grim’s article on March 24th detailed how Reade reached out for support from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund (inspired by the #MeToo movement), only to be denied on a technicality.  (It turns out Time’s Up has a connection to the Joe Biden campaign: according to Grim, “The public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.”  No bias there.)

The mainstream media ignored Reade’s allegation for three weeks until this Easter Sunday, when I finally saw this summary on NBC News.

Let’s look at this NBC Story.  First, the title: “Woman broadens claims against Biden to include sexual assault; The Biden campaign says the incident, alleged to have occurred in 1993, ‘absolutely did not happen.'”

So, the title mentions a “woman.”  It doesn’t say Tara Reade.  And it follows that with an immediate denial by the Biden campaign.  The article also features two photographs of Joe Biden in “strong” poses, but no photo of Tara Reade.

The article goes on to cite how Tara Reade once had some kind words for Russia and Vladimir Putin, and that she supported Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders rather than Joe Biden, all irrelevant to her accusation.

Let’s consider the timing of this story as well.  The mainstream media ignored Tara Reade’s accusation until Bernie Sanders had dropped out.  And it’s curious indeed that the story was posted after 8PM on a holiday.

Well, at least NBC posted it, right?  My guess is that they decided they couldn’t ignore the story completely, especially since Donald Trump and his campaign wouldn’t.  So, by airing Tara Reade’s story now, NBC hopes to defuse it.  And indeed the NBC story includes a blunt passage on Trump’s own alleged failings here:

“Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 despite facing multiple allegations of improper sexual conduct and sexual assault. A recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault to an “Access Hollywood” host also emerged in the weeks before Election Day. In addition, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018, in part for his role in making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.”

I thought this story was about Biden and Reade?

Again, it’s hardly surprising the Biden campaign is denying the story.  Sadly, it’s also not surprising how NBC has framed the story, presenting it in a way and at a time most favorable to the Biden campaign.

Tara Reade deserves better.  We all do.  For as Joe Biden himself said, When a woman alleges sexual assault, presume she is telling the truth.

Update: At the Hill, Krystal Ball hits many of the same notes in this critique of the New York Times story:

The Democratic Debates, Part 9: Special Bloomberg Edition

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Look at the billionaire wanting to be called on

W.J. Astore

Feeling my own pain, I watched last night’s Democratic debate from Nevada, which I have to say sparkled in the first hour as Elizabeth Warren tore into Mike Bloomberg for his racism and sexism.  Indeed, all our regulars took their shots at the billionaire, but I thought Warren landed the most telling ones.  Throughout the proceedings, Bloomberg largely looked bored; perhaps he was mentally counting the billions he’d saved under Trump’s tax rebate for the richest.

Anyhow, I somehow endured the entire two hours, though the dishonest questioning of Bernie Sanders by the panel put me on edge.  Basically, they hinted he was an un-American socialist-communist who’d soon collapse from another heart attack.  It was that bad.

Here’s how I see the candidates and their performances, post-debate and in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden: I think he profits the most from Bloomberg being on the stage, because Uncle Joe no longer has the worst record.  As the other candidates went after Bloomberg, Biden could wax nostalgically about the good old days under Obama.  He did OK.

Mike Bloomberg: Mayor Mike is a mega-rich old white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  He didn’t even bother trying to connect with people.  Money is his connection.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete is mega-poor young white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  As he got into a few tussles with Amy Klobuchar, I found myself rooting for Amy.

Amy Klobuchar: She’s good when she’s delivering prepared lines, but she faltered when asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico.  She was both defensive and disingenuous, not the best combination.

Bernie Sanders: Bernie is always Bernie.  Consistent passion on behalf of workers is his sweet spot.  He hit a home run as he talked about socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Elizabeth Warren: Something about the presence of Bloomberg lit a fire under Warren.  She had someone to torch, and she hit the target.  She also brought her remarks back to people of color on several occasions.  Perhaps her best debate performance yet.

As usual, the mainstream media was awful.  Did you know capitalism is the religion of America?  Apart from Bernie, the candidates professed their belief in capitalism as if the almighty god of America is Mammon.  Then again, our money says “In [this] God We Trust.”  In all seriousness, there’s something truly unseemly about all the money-grubbing in these debates.

Of course, you already know what was missing in this debate.  There were no questions on foreign policy.  None on America’s wars.  None on the military-industrial complex.  None on Iran or North Korea or Venezuela.  There were questions on trade that involved China and Mexico, but that was about it.  But at least climate change was discussed.

Most revealingly of all, the candidates were asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the party’s nominee, even if that candidate lacked the requisite number for a first ballot win.  All the candidates said, “let the [rigged] process play out,” meaning let the establishment’s super-delegates determine the winner, except for Bernie, who is likely to be the candidate with the most delegates who gets screwed by the DNC this summer.

And there you have it.  Time for a third party and a true political revolution, Bernie.