By Maggie Connolly ’21
TRIGGER WARNING: Please note that this article contains discussion and description of sexual assault.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the choice to not vote for Joe Biden in the presidential election this November. I labelled the choice as privileged and ignorant. Since I wrote that piece, Joe Biden has been accused of sexually assaulting Tara Reade in 1993 when she worked for him as a Senator.
This is not the first claim that Biden has mistreated or inappropriately touched young women. He has a record of grabbing women’s shoulders from behind, getting too close to them, and acting with a demeanor that often makes women feel uncomfortable. Those actions have been chalked up to Biden’s overly friendly persona, and he has acknowledged, although not apologized, that times are changing, and he needs to be more aware of how he touches and engages with women. That is, until recently.
Reade stated in several different interviews, the first being on March 25th during an interview on The Katie Halper Show, that Biden physically pushed her against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers. Afterwards, she claims that he said, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.”
Reade complained internally to Marianna Baker, Biden’s executive assistant and other top aides, about harassment, but not her sexual assault. Baker and the other aides, Ted Kaufman and Dennis Toner, have stated that they do not remember the conversation. Kaufman and Toner both claim they never even knew Reade when she worked in the office.
In an interview with the New York Times, Reade said, “When you work on the Hill, everyone knows who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and Biden was a good guy.”
Why didn’t she report sooner? That’s the question many nay-sayers ask in situations like of assault. Reade, according to a multitude of sources and interviews, says she faced criticism, harassment, and even death threats after her initial harassment claims were reported by a small, local newspaper in California. She has also gotten a lot of pushback from Tweets and postings praising Vladimir Putin.
A Vox article recounting Tara’s claims and her posting history says that, “Read told Vox that when she wrote the praise of Putin, she had ‘watched a bunch of Noam Chomsky” and was working on a novel set in Russia.” The piece further explains that she no longer feels the same way, especially after learning more about domestic violence in Russia, an issue she is passionate about and has fought against in her lifetime. There are also murky Tweets from different accounts of Tara’s praising Joe Biden, even as far as praising his advocacy for ending sexual assault. There are other comments like, “My old boss speaks truth. Listen,” quote-tweeting a BBC News article with the tag line “Joe Biden makes emotive cancer appeal.”
All of this information and more has been used as ammunition against Reade from members of the Democratic party who are endorsing and supporting Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Many others claim that he is the “lesser of two evils,” similar to the argument for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (who was, by the way, not one of two evils, in case you’re still wondering) and is causing anger and frustration amongst members of the more progressive left who believe and stand with Tara Reade.
There is more information, there are more facts, and more musings from the Times and other, well-read and large-scale publications. These outlets have been accused of not reporting fast enough, which, in my opinion, is a misstep from individuals who are frustrated with the lack of attention this is receiving due to Joe Biden’s Democratic candidacy. On an episode of popular political podcast, Pod Save America, Amanda Marcotte, a politics writer for Salon, makes the assessment that these news outlets are larger, with a larger network and more access to widespread information and reporting, they needed to gather all the information they could to credibly report on the issue.
However, the Times piece does contain an alarming line, arguably one used to sway readers to believe that maybe Reade isn’t telling the truth. The line reads as follows: “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.”
The line is one example of many people, reporters, Tweeters, and politicians discrediting Ms. Reade’s accusations for many reasons, but first and foremost, because Joe Biden is the only man who is in the position to defeat Donald Trump in November.
Biden is still receiving countless endorsement from previous opponents and proponents of things like the #MeToo movement and supported Christine Blasey Ford in her testimony accusing Brett Kavanagh of raping her in 2018. Say what you want about the credibility of Reade’s claims, it completely contradicts the #BelieveAllWomen narrative and hashtag that circulates Twitter frequently.
Among many other things, the accusations present an incredibly strong moral dilemma for those who wish to vote Democrat in the fall, for those who want to defeat Donald Trump, and for those who want someone in the White House who won’t tell Americans to drink bleach to cure the coronavirus.
At the end of 2019, Trump had at least 25 women who had accused him of sexual misconduct. Two women were paid by Trump himself to keep quiet about their relationships with him. It is morally complicated, and it becomes further complicated as more information surfaces about both Biden and Trump. I wish we lived in a world where the only two options associated with the largest parties in the country were not old, white men who have both been accused of rape. There are structural changes that need to happen in electoral politics for this to change, and for us to see a better, more effective democracy.
As of right now? I’m a bit lost. I don’t want Donald Trump in the White House for another four years, I don’t want him to work towards passing legislation and issue executive orders without worrying about re-election, and I most definitely don’t want Donald Trump to replace RBG in the Supreme Court. These are among the few reasons I want to vote for his most viable opponent. But knowing that my first presidential election may be one where I have to choose which man with a history of sexual misconduct’s box I want to check makes me sick to my stomach.
I don’t have an answer going forward, unless we can rig the system and you all pinky swear to write in Elizabeth Warren because you miss her fierce spirit and superior political knowledge and planning. Just me? Okay, maybe that’s just me.
The best we can do for now is stay informed. This isn’t the last we will hear from Tara Reade. There will be more information, to uncover, there always is in cases like this. It’s okay to not know how you feel yet, it’s okay to be worried, but don’t let it stop you from fighting against Donald Trump at all costs. I’m worried. I’m scared. But I’m going to keep fighting and holding our current president accountable, and you should too.