Why a new rape accusation against Joe Biden has to be taken seriously

Why a new rape accusation against Joe Biden has to be taken seriously
Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with supporters at a phone bank at his presidential campaign office in Des Moines, Iowa. Credit: Gage Skidmore

A former staffer for former Vice President Joe Biden, widely regarded as having an essentially unstoppable lead for the Democratic presidential nomination, has revealed a new and disturbing allegation of sexual assault and rape against her one-time boss.

Tara Reade spoke to the hosts of "Rising," a morning show for the outlet "The Hill." She told them that when she was a Senate staffer for Biden in 1993, he assaulted her by penetrating her against a wall with his fingers.

She said they were in a building in Washington, D.C., and he took her to a "semi-private place."

“And he had me against the wall,” she explained. “And then his hands were down my skirt and up my skirt. And I was wearing — I wasn’t wearing anything underneath. And then, with his hand, he went from there and entered me–with his hand — and as he was trying to kiss me, and saying things to me.”

She continued: "He was trying to kiss me, and I was pulling away. And what I remember of that time is feeling really shocked and surprised because there was no real conversation right beforehand. There was no precursor. It just happened. And then, when he did that, I was obviously pulling away. And he pulled back and said, you know, ‘Come on man, I heard you liked me,’ something to that effect. And that’s what kind of jolted me — I was trying to think what I did wrong to bring that on to me. He looked angry and irritated with me."

Biden was her dad's age at the time, she said. "It was just shocking, it was shattering, actually. And he said to me when he pulled back, he pointed his finger at me and said: 'You're nothing to me. You're nothing.' He straightened his clothes, and he went away."

She said there are some "holes" in her memory of the event, but she remembers the assault, "the aftermath, and the reverberating effects of that."

Two people have also helped corroborate her story. While she says there were no other witnesses to the incident, she says she told a friend, her brother, and her mother about it at the time.

The Intercept reported:

Her mother has since passed away, but both her friend and brother told The Intercept they recalled hearing about it from her at the time. Reade’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to be part of the public blowback, said she discouraged Reade from coming forward at all, concerned that she would be attacked and would never get the apology she was hoping for. Reade and her brother, Collin Moulton, both said that their mother urged her to call the police, but her brother urged her to move on instead. “Woefully, I did not encourage her to follow up,” he said. “I wasn’t one of her better advocates. I said let it go, move on, guys are idiots.”

Reade has previously spoken up about Biden. Attention was drawn to his treatment of women early on in the 2020 campaign by accusations from Lucy Flores. Flores described an incident in which Biden made her uncomfortable by kissing the back of her head. Other women described similarly inappropriate forms of unwanted touching from Biden.

When Reade previously spoke about her allegations against Biden, she did not include the most disturbing details that she has now brought forward. The Union reported of her allegations in April 2019:

Alexandra Tara Reade said that in 1993 she was in her mid-20s when Biden, then a senator from Delaware, touched her several times making her feel uncomfortable. Reade said her responsibilities in the senator’s office were reduced after she refused to serve drinks at an event — what she called a desire of Biden’s because he liked her legs. Reade said she felt pushed out and left Biden’s employ in August 1993 after some nine months.

Reade said she was afraid to come forward with the complete details because she was afraid of a backlash.

“Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims,” Biden's campaign said in a statement. “We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false.”

The Biden campaign also released a statement from Marianne Baker, who used to work as an executive assistant to Biden.

“In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone,” Baker said, as Vox reported. “These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”

Some have tried to cast doubt on Reade's story, pointing out that she has supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren and then Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary race. But this doesn't really cast doubt on her story, because it makes complete sense that she wouldn't support Biden if her story is true. It's also been suggested that the fact that she didn't come forward with this story initially is likewise suspicious. But we know from many different previous instances of assault stories that women are often reluctant to come reveal the whole truth for a wide range of reasons.

Reade has faced attacks since she spoke out against Biden for a blog post she wrote that was friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as The Intercept noted. But it's not clear what relevance that has to her credibility about the incident in question.

And while it's hard to know how much we should rank this consideration, her description of the event is emotional and persuasive. And while no one else has come forward with an allegation against Biden that is quite as serious, the fact that many other women have alleged that he invaded their space and made them feel uncomfortable lends credence to the idea that Biden's actions may have fallen within a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Watch her interview below:

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