Addressing the Smears Against Tara Reade, Joe Biden’s Rape Victim

A photo of Joe Biden.
A photo of Joe Biden.
Source: Associated Press

Trigger warning: this article describes sexual assault allegations.

Last week, former Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade was finally able to tell the story of how she was sexually assaulted and, ultimately, raped by her boss. Since The Intercept broke the story describing how Time’s Up refused to help her because they did not want to go after a political candidate in fear of losing their non-profit status (when, in reality, they didn’t support her because the organization is tied to Harvey Weinstein attorney and senior Biden campaign manager Anita Dunn), Reade was interviewed by podcaster Katie Halper and The Hill’s Rising, where she described getting pushed to the wall and being penetrated by the Senator.

While some corporate media organizations are covering the credible rape allegations, most are staying silent, protecting their beloved establishment candidate from any sort of scrutiny. Most of the Democratic establishment have also decided to turn a blind eye to this credible rape accusation; when Republicans and conservatives, such as Brett Kavanaugh, are credibly accused of sexually assault, Democrats and non-progressive liberals are the first to express their anger, but when one of their powerful friends are accused of similar disgusting crimes, they willfully cover their ears, thus proving that many Democrats only care about sexual assault and rape when it benefits them politically.

While some corporate media outlets and establishment Democrats are remaining silent on the issue, others are outright smearing Reade, making fallacious arguments in the hopes of manufacturing reasonable doubt and, therefore, attempting to convince us that we ought not to believe this woman’s credible accusations.

In this article, I will debunk the primary arguments circulating around Democratic circles that are being utilized to defend Biden and attack Reade.

1. “We shouldn’t believe the story because it originated from The Intercept.

This argument was advanced by former Democratic Governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean in a now deleted tweet:

Howard Dean’s Tweet attacking The Intercept.
Howard Dean’s Tweet attacking The Intercept.

In this tweet, Dean insinuates that we should not trust The Intercept’s coverage of Reade’s attempts to seek representation because of the source. We should remember, thought, that The Intercept’s Ryan Grim was the reporter who wrote this article, the same reporter who broke the Brett Kavanaugh story, unveiling the accusation letter that sparked the Congressional investigation. So by this logic, if we shouldn’t believe the Reade story because of the source, should we also cast doubt on the Kavanaugh accusations?

Also, this tweet argues that The Intercept is “often not credible”. Of course, it is difficult to draft substantive arguments on Twitter (one of the reasons why I avoid the platform whenever possible), but Dean failed to provide a single story proving how they are not credible. In reality, they perform excellent journalism, digging past the headlines and writing substantive investigatory articles that are far more educational and informative than what we see in the mainstream media.

Dean also accused Glenn Greenwald, an award-winning investigative journalist and attorney who co-founded The Intercept, of helping Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin influence the 2016 election. Based on what, though? The fact that his publication investigates American war crimes and government surveillance? Dean’s insinuation that Greenwald is a Russian puppet ignores his journalistic achievements and amounts to little more than red baiting.

Finally, Dean argued that The Intercept is merely “the Fox of the left”. Once again, totally bogus. Whereas Fox News promulgates right-wing conspiracy theories and cares little for the truth, The Intercept actually performs investigative journalism, and their reports go after Democrats and Republicans alike.

Why doesn’t he like The Intercept? Is it because they debunked his lie that he was never a lobbyist, or is it because they are real journalists who don’t treat politicians with kid gloves?

Of course, not only do Dean’s arguments fly in the face of reality, but he is, essentially, making a flimsy case, that most of his followers will uncritically believe, that we should highly doubt Reade’s accusations because her attempts at seeking help from Time’s Up were reported by a publication that he doesn’t like. Indeed, he is insinuating that we shouldn’t believe women due to his personal vendetta against the aforementioned news site. I don’t know what’s worse: his gross sense of entitlement or his misogynistic view that we shouldn’t believe women victims because of journalists.

2. “Tara Reade is a Russian asset who is trying to undermine Biden’s campaign.”

Howard Dean is not the only Democrat who is adept at associating his critics with Russia. Indeed, Democrats have been arguing since 2016 that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton because of Russian social media propaganda, not because Clinton was a terrible, neo-liberal, corporate, warhawkish candidate who alienated progressives and failed to campaign adequately in key battleground states. It is no surprise, therefore, that we are seeing the same type of arguments being levied at Tara Reade.

Critics of Reade have been arguing that we should not trust her because she is pro-Putin and, therefore, a Russian asset trying to undermine the American democratic process by helping to re-elect Putin-friendly Trump. Indeed, I’ve seen versions of this argument circulating on news article comment sections and social media posts since Reade’s accusations were first published. Look no further than the comments section of the DailyKos blog post which linked my original piece on Reade’s rape accusation.

A photo of Tara Reade.
A photo of Tara Reade.
An early photo of Tara Reade (Source).

Their main evidence stems from now-deleted Medium blog posts Reade wrote praising Putin. What they conveniently exclude from their argument, though, is that she no longer holds these views. Indeed, she indicated in an interview with Newsweek that her pro-Putin posts were based on her limited understanding of Russian politics, only pulling from documentaries and other sources that helped form her opinion that the country was being misrepresented by the United States. Since then, though, she did more research into Putin and determined that, as a “vegan feminist”, she no longer supports the Russian leader.

Beyond her evolution on Russia, though, we should take a step back and ask ourselves: how are her views on Russia relevant, at all, to the sexual assault perpetrated by Joe Biden in 1993? So does this mean we should give powerful men free-reign to rape women who are accused of being Russian assets? Did Biden even care about Reade’s views on international relations, let alone use this as an excuse for assaulting her?

The fact that many Democrats and non-progressive liberals are sounding the Russia alarm on Reade just further proves that these Democrats and non-progressives liberals don’t care about the plight of sexual assault survivors. They, quite literally, combed through her history to try and find shaky arguments that debunk her allegations, and, somehow, writing a pro-Putin blog post means she must’ve lied about being raped by her boss?

The misogyny and victim-blaming are palpable.

3. “Tara Reade cannot be trusted because she supports Bernie Sanders.”

Journalists have also unearthed Tweets from Reade showing her strong support of Bernie Sanders. Therefore, as Biden defenders argue, she cannot be trusted because she is politically motivated.

Once again, though, how is one’s preferred candidate, in anyway, evidence against the claim that they were raped by a powerful man? Does the fact that she previously supported Elizabeth Warren, and donated to Marianne Williamson, before publicly supporting Sanders change the validity of her claims or the arguments raised against her?

We should also note that, as a progressive, Reade only has two choices on the Democratic side at this point. She could either support Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, and she decided to support the candidate who is not only more progressive than the former vice president, but also the candidate who did not rape her. Seriously, do we expect her to endorse her rapist during the Democratic primaries? Would that have given her allegations more validity in the eyes of these rape apologists?

And as a side note, should we not be surprised that she backs Sanders after his supporters were among the limited groups of people who were not lambasting her when she originally claimed that Biden sexually harassed her last year? Specifically, she recounted the following after her harassment allegations were first reported last year:

“His supporters were the ones coming to me, saying, ‘We don’t care who you vote for, please know you have a safe place. I experienced the opposite of [“Bernie Bros”] culture.”

So, on the one hand, you have a progressive champion for women’s rights who has never been accused of any inappropriate sexual behavior (Bernie Sanders), with a fan club that welcomed her with open arms, regardless of candidate preference, in the wake of a substantial establishment media onslaught against her, and on the other hand, you have a candidate with a long history of touching women inappropriately and promulgating misogyny (Joe Biden). Why is anyone surprised that she is supporting the former over the latter this primary cycle?

And I feel this needs to be repeated: in a two-way primary contest, why would she endorse her rapist?

4. “Tara Reade’s story is inconsistent, so we shouldn’t trust her.”

This argument centers around the accusation itself and the events that led her to leave her career in Washington, D.C. Last year, she asserted that Biden sexually harassed her, which was consistent with the report that she filed with her employer back in the early 1990's. Now, she is arguing that Biden sexually assaulted her. She also indicated that she lost her job as a Senate staffer as a result of reporting the incident and was blacklisted from future opportunities in Washington, D.C., whereby forcing her out of the industry, but she also indicated that she left the federal government to pursue other interests.

These explanations, however, are not inconsistent at all.

Let’s start with the latter: one can both be forced out of an industry and have evolving interests that lead to a change of career. These two variables are not mutually exclusive, and perhaps the former led to the latter. If you were sexually assaulted by your professional mentor, would it really be unreasonable for you to explore different career opportunities? Also, one can publicly explain one element of their changing career interests without telling the full story. Remember, she wrote the blog posts explaining her career interest shift before she initially accused Biden of sexual harassment.

Reade telling the full story on The Hill’s Rising (2020).
Reade telling the full story on The Hill’s Rising (2020).
Reade telling the full story on The Hill’s Rising (2020).

And this leads us to the former: we cannot expect someone who was the victim of sexual assault to tell the story on the terms of onlookers. She originally publicly accused Biden of sexual harassment in 2019, but after experiencing an onslaught of cyberbullying, she reasonably did not feel comfortable telling the full story, so she waited until she was ready. By the time she was ready to tell her story, her voice was simply not being heard. As mentioned earlier, Time’s Up refused to help her, and it was only after she was given a platform by Katie Halper and The Hill’s Rising last week when we finally learned of these accusations.

I am not a psychologist, and I am not a sexual assault victim, but one could imagine how traumatizing the experience would be, and being lambasted for only telling a part of the story would lead anyone in a similar situation to refrain from telling the remaining elements of the story, and the fact that so many non-progressive liberal feminists are attacking Reade for telling a supposedly inconsistent story speaks volumes to their true motivations. Indeed, they don’t want to help victims of sexual assault, they just want to earn brownie points for attacking rapists when it benefits their reputations, careers, and political party.

Here is the reality: Reade’s story was not inconsistent by any means. She originally told the media that she was sexually harassed, and sexual assault often begins with harassment. Where is the inconsistency?

5. “The timing of this accusation is too suspect to trust Tara Reade.”

Some have argued that the timing of these accusations, on the cusp of recent primary victories for Biden, mean that Reade really wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed, but, rather, wants to derail Biden’s campaign to the benefit of Sanders, her preferred candidate.

The reality is that we are in no position to judge when a victim comes forward, but it makes sense for victims to come forward when the perpetrator is vying for power. Using Brett Kavanaugh as an example, the sexual assault allegations levied at him came after he was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Trump. Even Biden’s several prior sexual harassment allegations were first unveiled as he was preparing to run for president during the 2020 cycle, as were Trump’s accusations during the 2016 cycle.

Why are we not surprised by this? If someone is in the media spotlight, it makes complete and total sense for victims to come forward, especially when these powerful men are seeking higher office or more prominent positions. When their names are plastered all over the news and social media, we can certainly see how re-traumatizing this can be for their victims and why this attention can serve as the trigger for the victim to come forward.

Reade herself explained that she considered revealing her story when Biden ran for president, and then, later, as Barack Obama’s running mate, in 2008. She decided that, because her daughter was in high school at the time, she did not want to bring such a high level of publicity to her family. Moreover, she ended up voting for Obama, even though Biden was his vice presidential nominee, because she was a lifelong Democrat. In either case, it look her 12 years after the 2008 election cycle, and 27 years after the incident occurred, to tell the full story, and that is okay.

Why is Reade’s explanation not sufficient? We don’t get to dictate how sexual assault and rape survivors tell their stories, if they even decide to do so at all. To argue, as many non-progressive liberals seem to be implying, that survivors must tell their stories within a certain period of time under a specific set of criteria or else their accusations will not be deemed legitimate is the height of misogyny, and these impossible standards for sexual assault victims make it that much more challenging for survivors to come forward.

Here is the bottom line: many Democrats and non-progressive liberals who purport to support progressive causes, such as holding rapists accountable, only believe victims when it suits them politically. When a candidate that they worship is the one being credibly accused, or if one’s career or professional stature rests on the success of a rapist’s ascension to higher political power, party loyalty and blind career ambitions outweigh ethics, progressivism, consistency, and the need to hold powerful rapists accountable for destroying the lives of their victims.

They may give us token examples of how they keep their camp accountable, but we shouldn’t fall for it. For example, Senator Al Franken was pressured by fellow Democrats to resign due to his sexual harassment allegations, which was good, but we need to remember that Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota, did not hold nearly as much political power as Biden, a politician who has been a member of the party establishment since the 1970s and the sole individual that the establishment is counting on to beat Trump in November. Of course they are going to protect him, and holding lower-ranking Democrats accountable does not mean that they have the best interests of survivors in mind.

Many moderate non-progressive liberals tout the argument that we ought to “vote for the lesser evil”, but in this case, we are literally being told to “vote for the lesser rapist”. How is this acceptable? How can the Democratic Party, which allegedly champions progressive values, get away with elevating a misogynistic candidate who has been accused of sexual harassment, has joked about consent, who jokingly implied that he can use his status as a Senator to sleep with women, and, now, who has been credibly accused of sexual assault? Do they really think that a candidate like Biden would excite women, progressives, and those who are victims of sexual harassment to go vote for him?

Political calculus aside, one thing is clear: the conspiracy theories and misogynistic attacks levied at Tara Reade are unacceptable, and the fact that many of these attacks are coming from members of the Democratic Party is, unfortunately, not surprising, as they’d rather protect their establishment leader than to uphold women’s rights and hold rapists accountable.

In the wake of all of these lies about Reade and her accusations, now is the time to stand with Reade and openly declare that Biden is an unacceptable candidate. Indeed, if the Party truly wishes to be the side that believes women, they should act like it.

#IStandwithTara #TimesUpJoe #IBelieveTara #TimesUpBiden #UnendorseBiden

I am a progressive union activist who believes in fighting for the greater good.

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