John Ziegler is senior columnist for Mediaite, from which this column was adapted.
Tara Reade’s sexual-assault allegations against Joe Biden, dating back to 1993, make hypocrites of almost everyone in the political and journalistic classes.
Until the last few days, the story probably wasn’t worthy of mainstream coverage. Reade, a former Biden staffer, had never claimed to have been assaulted by the then-senator, despite all these years and many opportunities. She even failed to detail the assault in 2019, when she first publicly alleged Biden had acted inappropriately toward her, and she didn’t name Biden in the recent police report she filed about the incident.
None of that proved her allegation false. But her claims lacked the corroboration needed to be widely leveled against a presumed presidential nominee. But two recent events have changed that.
First, a tape emerged of a person who appears to be Reade’s mother calling into an old “Larry King Live” show on CNN, during an episode devoted to sex abuse in Washington. During the segment, which aired at exactly the time period when Reade was leaving Biden’s Senate office, the caller reveals that her daughter had some sort of a problem with a prominent male senator but decided not to go to the press out of “respect” for him.
Biden supporters have pooh-poohed the tape, citing the lack of specificity in the caller’s claims. But why would Reade’s mother take the extraordinary step of calling into a TV show unless something really significant had happened with her daughter?
The tape, by the way, was far stronger substantiation of Reade’s accusation than anything Christine Ford marshaled against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process. Since a large chunk of Biden supporters no doubt believed Ford over Kavanaugh, in a rational world, this would cause them quite a dramatic consistency problem.
Even before the tape suddenly emerged, mainstream outlets were falling over themselves trying to explain why Reade’s allegation against Biden was getting nowhere near the same kind of wall-to-wall coverage that Ford’s did. The editor of The New York Times tried to claim, apparently with a straight face, that Biden, the potential next leader of the Free World, just isn’t as “hot” a topic as Kavanaugh was.
Amazingly, the tape — which would have been treated by the news media like the finding of the famously kidnapped Lindbergh baby if Christine Ford had produced something like it — has done almost nothing to alter mainstream news media coverage, or lack thereof, regarding Reade. Outrageously, Biden wasn’t asked about the tape even by CNN; three female Biden backers were interviewed on the Sunday morning shows without even a mention of the controversy.
On Monday, a second major development further bolstered Reade’s case under the new #MeToo rules. Two new people, one still a strong Biden supporter, came forward to say that Reade told them about this episode, or at least something which is consistent with her current story, back in the mid-’90s.
Their accounts are understandably a little vague and aren’t totally contemporaneous, but they appear credible and convincing. It seems something Reade thought was awful likely happened to her in this time period, but knowing for sure all these many years later looks to be nearly impossible without some level of confession.
There are elements of her story that just don’t ring true (like the very open location of the incident, and the fact that nature of the assault sounds literally out of Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape). Reade has sounded oddly pro-Putin notes in op-eds. It is theoretically possible that either the accusation got exaggerated over time, or that Biden wasn’t the perpetrator.
But in many ways, this story isn’t really about Biden. It is about how nearly everyone in the political-media realm is a total and obvious hypocrite. #MeToo-supporting Democrats are pretending this allegation has no merit. Republicans are jumping all over it. And news media outlets of all stripes are deciding, as usual, to shift their editorial standards to fit their agendas.