Thirty-seven days after it went public, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden finally -- for the very first time -- personally addressed Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation against him. He did so in a Medium post, as well as in an interview with Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC. Like many other observers, I thought the interview was tough. Good questions were asked, with follow-ups. Biden handled it as best he could, categorically denying Reade's claim, reimagining his 'believe women' standard, and stumbling over questions about permitting a search of his archives at the University of Delaware. On the issue of Senate records, bear in mind that Reade says the complaint she filed would not have described an assault, even if it were produced, and the National Archives is disputing Biden's assertion that this sort of personnel file would be contained in the records they have:
Joe Biden said that Tara Reade's complaint could only be at the National Archives, at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. But, a National Archives spokesperson told me that they do not hold records from that office.— Nicole Einbinder (@NicoleEinbinder) May 1, 2020
I understand why Brzezinski drilled down so intensely on this angle, and Biden certainly seemed flummoxed and a bit evasive on the U of D archive questions. That being said I wish Biden had been asked additional questions on at least two more related subjects, each of which should be explored in future interviews:
(1) Reade's recollection has been buttressed by at least five witnesses who have confirmed she told them about the alleged assault at the time. Is it your belief that she was making this up all the way back then, too? Do you believe these witnesses are telling the truth? You say that allegations like this need to be carefully examined. Doesn't the fact that Reade's mother apparently phoned into a national television show in 1993 to discuss her daughter having trouble making a complaint against a prominent Senator -- presumably you -- at least enhance the credibility of her story?
(2) Now -- today -- do you believe Dr. Ford's allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? She had the right to be heard in a very major way, in a much more public and high-profile setting than Reade has been afforded thus far. Many prominent Democrats called on Kavanaugh's nomination to be withdrawn because of the allegations. Empirically, Ms. Reade has significantly more contemporaneous evidence backing her allegation than Ford ever produced. Do you still believe Ford? If so, why? Based on what evidence? And does your continued belief mean that you believe her accusation should have been disqualifying for Kavanaugh? If not, do you believe you and your party owe him an apology?
Brzezinski conducted a strong, skeptical interview. But she did not touch on the contemporaneous corroboration that exists in this case, nor did she delve into certain elements of Biden's apparent Kavanaugh double standard, and how he squares certain related circles. As I mentioned above, this is fertile ground for future interviewers interested in picking up where Brzezinski left off. I believe there are some potential red flags surrounding Reade's story (similar red flags were angrily rejected as victim-blaming and undermining 'survivors' when raised against Dr. Ford, by many of the people eager to shield Biden today). I do not know who is telling the truth, and the presumption of innocence must be a guiding principle. The truth and evidence matter. So do outrageous, hypocritical, politically-driven double standards. Here is the full Reade-related portion of this morning's interview:
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