After finally addressing former Senate staffer Tara Reade’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been forced to try to reconcile his party’s “Believe Women” mantra with his assertion that what Reade says took place back in 1993 “never happened.”
In an interview with podcast host Katie Halper in March, Reade gave a detailed account of what she says took place when she was a staffer for then-Senator Biden in 1993. Asked by a member of his staff to bring him his gym bag, Reade said that she encountered Biden alone and, after he greeted her, “He just had me up against the wall.” “It happened all at once,” Reade told Halper. “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying something to me.”
Amid mounting pressure to address the accusation after weeks of silence, Biden finally denied it in a statement posted on Medium on May 1, saying the allegations that he “engaged in misconduct 27 years ago” simply “aren’t true” and “never happened.”
Far from putting the allegation to rest, though, Biden has continued to be pressed to square his dismissal of Reade’s claim with the party’s larger message on #MeToo accusers. In a moment highlighted by Ed Morrissey, Biden was asked again to address the issue by “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, and ended up presenting a notably qualified version of “Believe Women.”
“On these allegations from Tara Reade, I know you deny them, but you’ve also said that women should be believed,” said Stephanopoulos. “So what do you say to Americans who believe Tara Reade and won’t vote for you because of it?”
“Well, that’s their right,” said Biden. “Look here, look, I think women should be believed. They should have an opportunity to have their case and state it just forthrightly, what their case is. Then it’s the responsibility of responsible journalists like you and everyone else to go out and investigate those. The end of the day, the truth is the truth. That’s what should prevail. And the truth is this never happened. This never happened, I assure you. That’s the truth.”
.@JoeBiden to @GStephanopoulos on Tara Reade: "I think women should be believed. They should have an opportunity to have their case…then it's the responsibility of responsible journalists like you and everyone else to go out and investigate those." pic.twitter.com/5Go69jQKzj
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 12, 2020
As Morrissey points out, Biden’s comments to Stephanopoulos are all the more interesting when held up next to his comments during the height of the Brett Kavanaugh-Christine Blasey Ford controversy. Speaking to a group of reporters in mid-September 2018, Biden said of Ford’s uncorroborated accusation dating back over three decades against Kavanaugh, “Oh, I thought she was telling the truth at the beginning. I really did.”
An extensive Senate Judiciary Committee investigation that involved 45 witness interviews and 25 witness statements ultimately did not find “any evidence to substantiate or corroborate any of the allegations” against Kavanaugh, and all of the alleged witnesses named by Ford either denied any knowledge of her claim or flatly refuted it.
After telling reporters he believed Ford’s uncorroborated claims, the former vice president then made a wider comment on women making public accusations.
“For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights 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, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time. But nobody fails to understand that this is like jumping into a cauldron,” said Biden, as reported by The Washington Post.
Biden went on to defend Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s much-criticized handling of the Ford allegation. “Dianne’s getting beat up now for why didn’t she go forward,” he said. “The one thing that’s not said is, of all the progress we’ve made in the country, #Metoo, you still have the fundamental question of, what is the individual’s right to come forward or not to come forward?”
During the exchange with reporters, Biden also offered some thoughts about his much-maligned handling of the Anita Hill hearings. “The one regret I have is I wish there had been a way I could’ve controlled the questions,” he said. “But you can’t in a committee. Remember, when they went after the last victim [Hill], I kept trying to gavel, but there was no way to say, ‘You can’t ask that question.’”
For women who come forward with allegations, Biden said, “For all, it’s damaging. For some, it’s devastating.”
The Post notes in its report that when Biden was asked if it mattered that the incident Ford described took place when Kavanaugh was 17 years old, some three and half decades ago, Biden said with a laugh, “What I’m going to do is I’m not going to answer any more questions.”
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