Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden could turn into the Hillary’s emails of the 2020 election. The press is following the evolving accusations closely and speculation is rampant on both left and right twitter that Biden will be removed from the ticket or should step down. Nobody is revisiting the numerous credible accusations against Donald Trump.
I don’t believe Reade and I think the #BelieveWomen mantra is misguided. Women who make accusations should certainly be heard. Nobody should shame people who come forward and we need to create an atmosphere in this country where sexual harassment and abuse is utterly unacceptable. Abusers, not victims, should be the pariahs. But we also need to acknowledge that people, both men and women, lie about a lot of serious matters for a variety of murky reasons. We shouldn’t automatically believe women anymore than we should automatically dismiss allegations.
Back in the early 1990s, I spent a few years doing child neglect and abuse investigations. I saw both men and women lie on a regular basis, making accusations that could ruin lives and destroy families. Women accused husbands or boyfriends of sexual abuse, knowing the accusations were false. They accused neighbors of physical or sexual abuse in attempts to have children removed their homes. In one instance, a friend of mine lost custody of his very young children after his wife made allegations that he improperly touched his daughter in the shower. He never saw his children again. He’s dead now and that was 30 years ago. I’m certain the allegation was false.
I do not believe Reade for a few reasons. Her story and allegations have been changing and getting increasingly serious. Something probably happened that made her very uncomfortable and Joe Biden’s Senate staff may well have mishandled the situation, but the sexual assault charge does not seem credible. For twenty-seven years, she told a story of creepy behavior, not sexual assault.
She revisited the episode when the #MeToo movement was taking off. Last April, Reade said Biden touched her inappropriately and made a very detailed description of his behavior. “He used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck. I would just kind of freeze and wait for him to stop doing that.” Not until last month did she allege sexual assault. That’s a wide gap that appeared over the course of the year. In my experience, evolving stories have problems.
Reade’s most recent version describes behavior that reflects an attitude and personality type. Sexual assaults like the one she described are not often one-off incidents. They are part of a pattern of abuse. Nobody else has ever accused Biden of any such behavior. Other allegations of inappropriate behavior stem from Biden being too familiar and affectionate, not engaging in entitled sexual assault.
If Biden had a pattern of sexual abuse, his behavior would have come out by now. He was vetted for the vice presidency and he was a central figure on Capitol Hill for four decades. Even when society looked the other way and downplayed sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men, female staffers, lobbyists and others knew which Senators and Members of Congress to avoid. Joe Biden was not one of them.
While I do not find Reade’s accusations credible, I do see a pattern in the press of chasing down murky accusations about a Democratic nominee while downplaying or ignoring accusations against Donald Trump. In 2016, the press obsessed over Hillary Clinton’s emails and today nobody even remembers why. At the same time, numerous women made very credible accusations against Trump, but they never got the multiple news cycle coverage of either the Clinton emails or the Reade allegations.
I suspect the press is overcompensating to counter accusations that Trump is treated unfairly. Republicans have been whining for decades that the press is biased against them. To be fair, most reporters do not believe that denying gay people the same rights as straight people is religious freedom. Most do not believe that cutting taxes for the wealthy and services to poor people is better for society as a whole. They do not believe that we are a color blind society. They do not believe that massive wealth and income inequality are inevitable in a free society. They do believe in a strong social safety net, especially as their industry collapses and many of their colleagues find themselves dependent on one. It’s difficult to be an educated American dependent on wages and still buy into the conservative dogma of free market ideologues and evangelical Christians like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Still, those reporters and their news organizations should spend as much time investigating Donald Trump and the allegations against him as they do the ones against his Democratic opponents. Trump is a master of creating chaos, making crazy statements and then having surrogates question the motives of reporters. Those tactics should not keep reporters from holding Trump to the same standard they are holding Biden. Like Tara Reade’s allegations, the ones against Trump are still out there and still unresolved. Unlike Reade’s allegations, they haven’t gotten weeks of steady coverage.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >