This article will describe a detailed allegation of sexual assault against current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Please be advised that the article may be disturbing and upsetting to some readers.
“Believe all women.”
That is a phrase used widely by activists who claim membership among the #MeToo movement. It’s a striking, useful and good-intentioned one — when it comes to sexual assault, victims all too often do not see justice done to their abusers. The #MeToo movement has strived to change that, but it seems even that has its limits.
Some weeks ago, Alexandra Tara Reade, a former staffer for Joe Biden’s Senate office during the 1990s, came forward with an account of how the Democratic presidential candidate sexually assaulted her in 1993. One could assume that a serious, credible accusation against the then-Democratic primary frontrunner would have been covered extensively by major American news outlets, but one would be mistaken: not one story appears on the websites of any 24-hour cable news network or those of the large national newspapers.
As if the silence of major news outlets wasn’t enough, the Legal Defense Fund of Time’s Up — a movement dedicated to aiding sexual assault victims and helping them tell their stories — declined to provide assistance to Reade, according to reporting done by The Intercept.
However, some smaller news organizations have given the allegation the reporting it warrants. In interviews conducted with Reade by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Krystal Ball of the Hill, Tara explained the incident occurred when she was working as a staff assistant for Joe Biden’s office in 1993. Speaking to Goodman, Reade described the events that led up to the assault:
“I was approached by my supervisor. She handed me a gym bag and said, ‘Hurry, Joe wants this, so get it to him. He’ll meet you down towards the Capitol.’ And I went down the stairs, and I don’t remember exactly where I was because there are connections between the Russell Building and all of that and the corridors, but we were in a semi-private location. It wasn’t a room. It wasn’t, you know, the Russell Office Building — I mean, in his office. It was down in the corridors. And I handed him the gym bag.”
Reade alleges the assault happened after she delivered the gym bag to then-Senator Biden. As she explained in her interview with Ball: “When I gave him the gym bag, it happened all in one motion, almost. And he had me against the wall and then his hands were down my skirt, and up my skirt, and I wasn’t wearing anything. And then with his hands went from there and entered me, and as he was trying to kiss me, and so when I tell you it’s hard because everything happened at once… He was trying to kiss me and I was trying to pull away, and what I remember of that time is feeling really trapped…”
Reading and listening to these interviews with Reade, this article’s authors were deeply emotionally affected. So with such a serious, credible allegation, what justification exists for the near-blackout of the story in America’s major news media? The allegations against Harvey Weinstein exploded in the news immediately, as did the allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process. Neither of those men was running for President of the United States; surely anyone who is running for the highest office in the country deserves even more scrutiny in cases where they have been accused of sexual misconduct.
Activists have also remained silent, such as actress Alyssa Milano and Biden senior advisor Symone Sanders, who has recently scrubbed their Twitter bios of the hashtag and deleted their tweets about Brett Kavanaugh. In sharp contrast, actor and activist Rose McGowan has been vocal in her support of Reade and has recently made scathing criticisms of Milano for her silence about the seriousness of the allegations against the Democratic candidate.
Milano finally broke that silence last Monday but spoke in sharp tonal contrast as compared with her outspoken words against Harvey Weinstein. In an interview with SiriusXM’s Andy Cohen Live, she said, “I did my work and I spoke to Times Up and I just don’t feel comfortable throwing away a decent man that I have known for 15 years.”
One more wrinkle in this story inspires a move from disappointment to downright suspicion: in the weeks following Time’s Up’s decision not to support Reade’s allegation, public affairs and political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker — which employs Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund co-founder Hilary Rosen as a political strategist — was paid a total of $587,478.73 over four payments by Biden for America, according to the Federal Election Commission’s website.
Since there is no disclosure of the reason these payments to SKDKnickerbocker from Biden’s campaign were made, speculation is all that is available, but the timing and amounts of the payments are dubious, to say the least.
Silence and suspicion. Until now, no one could believe these to be a part of the #MeToo movement. In such a short length of time, it has made great strides in changing how our society sees and deals with sexual harassment and assault. But now, at a critical juncture, when it could be argued that the work of #MeToo is more important than ever, the movement seems to have faltered. For what? To coronate a certain candidate as their party’s presidential nominee, to promote him as seemingly pure and unimpeachable, even at the cost of justice?
Joe Biden will most likely be the Democratic nominee for president — that became likely last week when Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign — but should he be? Is there no true moral imperative that dictates allegations such as this one against Biden be fully investigated, and if it is discovered that the allegation is true, that the man responsible be, at the very least, barred from running for the highest office in the land? Should a man accused of stealing the freedom of a woman in such a heinous act be allowed to serve as the leader of the free world?
Joe Biden’s incumbent opponent, President Trump, is, of course, such a man, but Democrats should challenge him with someone who is truly morally superior. If Tara Reade’s allegation is to be believed, then as lamentable as it is to acknowledge, Joe Biden represents no moral difference from Donald Trump.
Biden for America did not respond to a request for comment.
Kyle Gombosi is a senior Music: Elective Studies major with a minor in journalism. KG806059@wcupa.edu
Kelly Baker is an alumnus of West Chester University who majored in English with a minor in journalism and film criticism. KB819687@wcupa.edu