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

biden-reade
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: