Yves here. Even though the press and Vichy Left treatment of Tara Reade’s allegations of rape by Joe Biden1 has been predictably disgraceful, we would normally regard this as a purely political story and hence more suited to Links/Water Cooler coverage.
However, as Tom points out, l’affaire Tara Reade has also become a media story, as in providing yet more evidence of how the press covers for favored interests. The Dems are all in for Biden, the mainstream press is all in for the Dems, ergo, the mainstream press is all in for Biden. So it’s noteworthy that despite the concerted effort to relegate the Tara Reade account to Hallin’s sphere of deviance, the New York Times clearing its throat and then the Washington Post editorial board calling for Biden to address Tara Reade’s account means that horse has finally left the barn.
I am nevertheless surprised that Biden is taking the bait. He’s set to discuss the matter on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, as in Friday. I hope some of you will watch in full, not only out of political or prurient interest, but also to see how severely cherry-picked the follow-on reports are.
On the one hand, I am sure that no matter what Biden says, operatives like Pelosi will say, “Biden has discussed this already and I am satisfied with his answers. We need to put this behind us.” In fact, as Tom points out, Pelosi is now satisfied with Biden’s non-answers!
On the other, it’s hard to see how Biden can say anything that will make this controversy go away. If he makes a non-denial like “I don’t remember anything of the kind and I’d never do anything like that,” it opens him up to more jibes about his deteriorating mental state and replays of videos and other accounts of Biden getting way too hands-y with women and little girls.
And if he tries the smearing-the-victim route when Reade has nothing to gain from coming forward, let alone now, that has the potential to backfire. Perhaps he’ll try ducking the question by blathering on about how he’s has the highest respect for women, had always had great relationships with the women working for him and how he’s helped advance the careers of women working for and with him, but I don’t see how not talking about Tara Reade works given that that’s what he agreed to do.
And it goes without saying that this episode confirms my low opinion of #MeToo. Its adherents were never interested taking up the cause of non-privileged women who face abuse on a regular basis, like waitresses. Instead, they looked to often to be acting out of a widespread rage among careerist women of having to deal with predatory or merely openly sexist bosses, and attacking available targets, even when the evidence against them was thin.
By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!
Is the Tara Reade story reaching critical mass, approaching a tipping point? It seems so.
The initial response to this story was silence from anyone with political or media power. The media in particular completely ignored it. Comparisons of CNN coverage of the Reade story with their coverage of the Blasey Ford story show a marked discrepancy. Reade told her full story first in a March 25 interview with Katie Halper. Yet CNN published no Tara Reade stories until April 25, and then, it seems, they published only in embarrassed response to The Intercept‘s revelation that Reade’s mother had called in to CNN’s own show, Larry King Live, on August 11, 1993 to discuss in unspecific terms her daughter’s problem.
CNN finally broke silence on the Reade story less than a day after Ryan Grim and the Intercept published the Larry King show transcript and the Media Research Center located and tweeted a clip of it. Blasey Ford’s story, in contrast, went viral on all national media. including on CNN, as soon as it was available. Deservedly so, in her case. Not so much, in Reade’s.
To conclude that the media buried the story to help Biden remain the presumptive nominee is inescapable. The plan, apparently, was to starve the public of Reade news and wait out the indie-press storm until newer news drew their attention.
Once the wall of silence was breached, the indie press started asking why Democratic Party leaders and opinion makers, especially prominent #MeToo women, were either absent from the discussion or suddenly coming out in support of Biden. Kirstin Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton are the latest to announce support as of this writing, but the silence of many — Elizabeth Warren prominently among them — is still deafening. Note that “I support Joe Biden” and “I believe Joe Biden” are different statements.
Only Nancy Pelosi, speaking with Ari Melber on MSNBC, has been asked directly about Reade’s accusation and replied, “I’m satisfied with his answer.” (It’s very much to the point of this piece that the only sources I could find to link to for this quote are right-wing sources like Breitbart. Yet Melber’s show is on MSNBC.)
Now the story itself, or the story about the story, is coming to mainstream pages and screens, thanks partly to the shaming of the indie press and partly to the recent report by Rich McHugh in Business Insider.
Michelle Goldberg tweeted this on April 27, three days prior to this writing:
This is the most persuasive corroborating evidence that has come out so far. What a nightmare. https://t.co/u4yPbEElaf
— Michelle Goldberg (@michelleinbklyn) April 27, 2020
The New York Times now publicly acknowledges Biden’s silence:
Democratic Frustration Mounts as Biden Remains Silent on Sexual Assault Allegation
Activists and women’s rights advocates have urged Mr. Biden to address a former aide’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. His lack of response has angered them.
In an April 27 New Yorker story entitled “The Biden Trap: As the candidate faces credible assault allegations, his progressive female colleagues are being offered a poisoned chalice,” Rebecca Traister observes:
Biden’s shaky past behavior around women and their bodies isn’t staying in his past.
In which article we see this:
Democrats are in an increasingly precarious position as reporters assess Reade’s allegation. By any measure of the #MeToo movement that has seen the Democratic Party embrace “believe women” as a mantra, Reade, 56, has provided a serious account, disputed by Biden’s campaign and former senior staffers who worked in his office in 1993 but corroborated in part by people she told about the incident in the 1990s.
Chris Cillizza add his bit with “Joe Biden’s campaign is twisting a New York Times story to defend against the Tara Reade allegation“.
And the Daily Beast pursues responses from 10 prominent women’s groups and notes their near universal silence (emphasis added):
Why Have Women’s Groups Gone Dead Silent on Biden Sex-Assault Accusation?
Women’s groups and prominent feminist figures have remained almost universally silent over a former staffer’s accusation of sexual misconduct against former Vice President Joe Biden—including those individuals and groups who came to express regret for how the Democratic Party handled similar accusations made against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
The collective non-response from mostly Democrat-aligned groups comes as potential female running mates struggle themselves in responding to the Biden allegation, which has the potential to upend his campaign against President Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of womenin alleged incidents spanning decades. And it echoes the division among progressives when the #MeToo movement revived scrutiny of Clinton’s own alleged sexual misconduct.
The Daily Beast contacted 10 top national pro-women organizations for this story, including Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women. Most organizations did not respond to a detailed request for comment about the allegation by Tara Reade, a former staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office who has accused the former vice president of forcibly penetrating her with his fingers in the early 1990s. Others replied and did not provide a statement.
In addition, according to the article, “neither [attorney Patricia] Ireland [who presided over NOW during the whole of the Clinton administration] nor feminist icon [Gloria] Steinem responded to a request for comment about Reade’s accusations against Biden.”
Finally, the Washington Post‘s editorial board writes on April 29: “Biden himself should address the Tara Reade allegations and release relevant records“.
What’s notable in all these reports isn’t the story itself. It’s that the story is being told in mainstream media outlets where people with mainstream lives can finally see them.
The day may be almost here when Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Warren, and worse for Biden, all of the female VP candidates and hopefuls mentioned by Traister in her “poisoned chalice” New Yorker article will be asked on the record, not if they support Joe Biden, but if they believe him.
That’s a question few women with strong #MeToo credentials will want to answer, since it ties them, perhaps forever, to Biden’s “historical shortcomings” (in Traister’s delicate phrasing). They have to be concerned that, if another credible accuser comes forward, it could sink them all.
Will this explosion of coverage lead to a collapse of the Biden campaign and a DNC search for a new 2020 standard-bearer? We can’t be sure it will. Every indication that’s come to my ears suggests that DNC Democrats, those with real power, are certain the storm will be weathered, the story will pass into the background, spring will fade to summer, then to fall, and by November Party-leaning minds will think only of Trump and the wreckage he represents.
But critical mass brings tipping points. We also can’t be sure that Reade’s story won’t lead to Biden’s collapse, now that the difficult questions are starting to be asked in places that give permission to ask them.
1 As reader Landrew pointed out, the Justice Department defines rape as “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Many states use the term “sexual assault” with a functionally equivalent definition.