The Sad Story of Tara Reade and Joe Biden [Update]

Joe Biden 2019

Tara Reade, a former Joe Biden staffer, says that he sexually assaulted her. This story has been spinning around Twitter for a while. I didn’t give it much credence, but more recent reporting has me concerned. Regardless what the truth is here, it’s very sad.

Reade worked for Biden when she was in her 20s. When she first discussed the matter publicly, she described the kind of stuff we’ve come to expect from Biden. She said he would “put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck.” But more recently, she has expanded the story — and the crime. She now alleges that Biden penetrated her with his finger. Legally, I think this would qualify as rape.

As I mentioned, I didn’t think much about Reade’s claims because it seemed like nothing more than yet another pointless battle in the Biden-Sanders war. But when I looked into it, the allegations seemed credible. That’s not to say that she’s telling the truth. I really have no idea. But there are things that tend to make me believe her.

In particular, she told her brother and friend at the time that this happened. But it hasn’t been thoroughly reported. In Ryan Grimm’s article, he reports, that she told them “about the incident.” Is this the inappropriate touching or the penetration? I tend to think it is the latter because he mentions “sexual assault.” (Grimm never calls it rape.)

Biden has unequivocally denied the allegation. Clearly, it is a story that needs more reporting.

The Two Sides

Meanwhile, the battle rages on among the Biden and Sanders supporters. As usual, I find them both wanting.

The Biden Camp

On the Biden side, people dismiss Tara Reade because of a now-deleted Medium article she wrote where she gushed about Vladimir Putin. She has defended herself by saying that her opinion has changed and that she was then writing a novel set in Russia.

I can see why people find this suspect. Just the same, I can so see myself doing the same thing. When I’m researching something new, I often get very excited about it. So I don’t have a problem believing her explanation.

On the other hand, maybe she is a Russian asset. Like I said: I don’t know.

The Sanders Camp

I understand Sanders supporters who think that Biden is a less than stellar candidate to go up against Trump. I agree although I blame the the Sanders campaign and its poor performance as much as anyone.

In the case of Tara Reade, the Sanders side is reacting the way they have to every other thing that’s come up to attack Biden. I don’t see any more thought given to it than to the ridiculous “Biden has dementia” claims.

And it’s sad because a lot of Sanders supporters don’t seem to realize how important Reade’s claims are. For many, this is just another stick to hit Biden with. But if what she says is true, this will change the primary, but not in the way that they think.

Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee. It is not really possible for Sanders to catch Biden. So even if Biden drops out, the nomination is going to be thrown to the party. And they will pick a unity candidate — almost certainly a woman. (And no; I’m not thinking of Warren.)

A Sad Story

So all the glee I hear coming from Sanders supporters is ill-advised. This is important stuff. If Reade is deluded, I feel for her. If she isn’t, Biden is a monster — or at least was at that time.

I’m not sure what happens if it is shown that he is guilty. But most likely, what will happen is that the allegation will remain but no other women will come forward and we will never know.

And we will be left with the uncertain and sad world we’ve always had.

Update (1 April 2020)

I’ve read more about this and I’m as confused as ever. But I’m at least more secure about what both sides are saying in this fight.

Brian & Eddie Krassenstein wrote Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden. They deliver on that title but nothing they report is rock solid. It literally does cast doubt but doesn’t destroy her claim.

The one thing I found most interesting was how positive Reade had been toward Biden in the past. Human psychology is weird though. The article is worth a read.

More important, Emily Alford wrote at Jezebel Tara Reade’s Allegations Deserve More Care. It gets to the heart of what’s so troubling about the reporting on this: that there is none. There are tons of people and documents that need to be checked that simply have not been. And as Alford notes, this all should have been done before Reade’s allegations were pushed into public.

And this is just the most basic reporting that needs to be done. The most troubling thing about the allegations is that I’ve never heard whispers that Biden was a sexual predator. Generally, guys don’t do this kind of thing just once. What normally makes allegations of this type stick is that there is an existing narrative that simply isn’t well-known outside a particular group — like was the case with Harvey Weinstein.

The lack of all these pieces does a disservice to both Reade and Biden. And sadly, I suspect that we will continue on like this with both sides convinced they are right and no one in a position to do the reporting caring enough about getting to the truth.


Image cropped from Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

16 thoughts on “The Sad Story of Tara Reade and Joe Biden [Update]

  1. Wait, some Sanders supporters are gleeful over this story? That’s awful on them. It’s a horrible story. But I suppose that’s politics.

    Where I’m at is “who can beat Trump?” In 2016, I thought Hillary Clinton could beat any of the Republican candidates except Trump. They were all playing Presidential, Clinton was better at it than any of them. Trump didn’t bother playing Presidential (and still, tragically, refuses to), Clinton would have difficulty beating him.

    I’m getting a similar vibe about 2020. All of the Democratic candidates would have been strong against Trump, except Joe Biden. Everything Trump is certifiably guilty of, Biden has done (to a lesser degree). I think Biden is the worst possible candidate and will lose hard. I’d kill for a Booker or Gillibrand at this point.

    • I don’t know. Literally. Every time I start thinking about it, my head starts spinning. I can make good cases for and against every candidate. One thing is clear: if this crisis drags on for months, Trump is dead.

      As for the Sanders supporters, I should be clear. There are some really vile people on Twitter. The number of hysterical Sanders supporters has plunged, as far as I can tell. And I don’t say that to be mean. Most people freak out for a while after their candidate loses. So I said to my anti-Sanders friends that they should give them all time. But I’m afraid the anti-Sanders people too needed time. Both groups have calmed down. And if Sanders would drop out, everything would be fine within a short period of time. But things are so messed up with the crisis that it’s hard to know what anyone should do.

      I’m going to update this article. I got more info on Reade. She’s an odd character. I’m still trying to get my head around her. But I’m more skeptical of her story now. Ultimately, I think it comes down to what I wrote: if other women come forward, Biden is in trouble. If they don’t, he isn’t. Is Reade telling the truth? I tend to think that at least she thinks she is. Frankly, I just don’t know anymore. The world is a confusing place!

      • As you often point out, people do not make decisions rationally, they rationalize. I don’t know how to judge this objectively, and it seems like everyone is deciding whether they believe Reade based on whether they already supported Biden or Sanders. I plan to vote for Biden, so my brain focuses on the positive parts of his record and downplays the negative parts. Were Warren still a contender, I might do the opposite. I tried to discuss my doubts about Reade’s story on a Facebook group and got a response that was essentially 20% about the allegation and 80% anti-Biden talking points that could have been made anytime in the last year. So I’m not sure anyone is actually discussing the allegation, so much as using it as a proxy in the pre-existing primary conflict.

        • I’m with you! When I listen to Reade, there seems to be real pain there. But it’s hard for me to go all-in without others coming forward. That is how these things normally work. I understand in the Kavanaugh case that he was a kid and very drunk. And one of the things I wanted to know in this case was if Biden was drunk, but he at least was not in a situation where one is normally drunk and Reade has not suggested it. Sexual assault is not usually a one-off. So I’m stuck not knowing what to think.

          It has become something of a proxy war for the Biden-Sanders fight. And I really don’t get that because while this could all derail Biden, I don’t see it helping Sanders. And certainly Reade (in her interviews anyway) isn’t pushing it as a Sanders issue. Of course, I can already hear my Biden friends saying, “She wouldn’t do that for exactly that reason!” But based on all the evidence, I just don’t think you can say what either side is saying. It isn’t clear that Biden assaulted her. And it isn’t clear that Reade is lying.

          I need to update the article now.

          • The other argument I’ve heard is that Biden was Obama’s VP for eight years during which the GOP were desperate to destroy his administration. You’d think that if that kind of dirt were out there, someone would have found it before now.

            • Right — I kinda believe this story, because Biden is all Grabby Hands, but I do wonder why it hasn’t come up before. Wouldn’t Fox or Breitbart have been all over it?

              • I think there is a clear distinction here that, for Biden’s generation at least, was really big. I don’t think it occurred to Biden until recently that his back-rubs and so on were appropriate. If he “grabbed ’em by the p….” he certainly would have known it was something he needed to hide.

                I think I will watch Rashomon this weekend and maybe forget everything but its artistry.

            • I’ve wondered about that. And I know he was investigated before becoming the VP nominee. I’d think if there were rumors it would have come to life. It is, of course, possible that this is a one-off for Biden. That is almost never the case with people like that. But it’s possible. If it is a one-off, what do we think of that? The thing is, it would make this all a lot easier to grok if it had been at a party and Biden had been drinking. The whole thing is giving me flashbacks of Rashomon.

      • On one point, I think you’re wrong — I think the longer this crisis goes, to no small part because of an incompetent fool President, the better it works for him. His approval numbers are now higher than they’ve ever been. Despite the fact that he’ll say one thing Tuesday, contradict it on Wednesday, then scream “fake news” on Thursday to anybody quoting verbatim his Tuesday words. I suspect he’ll win in a landslide, it won’t even be close. God help us all.

        Hope you and yours are doing well. I fucked up the unemployment application for Peggy, just as I did for mine, because that website is an absolutely un-navigable batch of rancid hell, (thanks, Republicans!) but it does look like she’s going to get $275 a week or so. I won’t count on it until it’s in the bank, because we need that money to buy food, but I’m hopeful it’s real.

        Thing about buying food? You have to cook it. No problem for us, but it’s amazing how many people don’t grasp the concept of dried beans or canned tomatoes. Gimme a bag of dried beans, half an onion, garlic powder and some canned tomatoes, I’m good to go.

        Amazingly, the one thing absolutely in abundance at Twin Cities grocery stores is produce. Because, possibly, the dirty nasty store employees touched the oinions? You have to remove the outer skin of the onions anyway, that’s Cooking 101. (And I have the best dicing-onions method, it’s slice in half through the International Date Line, then the Equator. Put that one to heart, and you will never take knife to onion any other way, I guarantee it.)

        Why aren’t people buying produce? It’s the best stuff in the store! Everything’s insane right now.

        • Trump saw a very minor uptick in his approval rating, but it is already turning around and I believe within a couple of weeks it will be back to where it long has been. There is a “rally around the flag” effect but it has always be short-lived. During the Gulf War, Bush Sr saw his approval rating go into the low 90%. Two years later, he was extremely unpopular and lost re-election. (And based on polling, he would have lost even worse had Ross Perot not run.)

          I noticed that too about the vegetables when this first started. But when all the frozen food was gone, potatoes and onions sold out. I think most of the buying is just people thinking they should. So first go the frozen vegetables then the canned then the fresh. And why that order? Because they are Americans. This is for America:

          • Wow, Zappa is such a badass.

            If Americans are fear-hoarding potatoes, I’m impressed! I didn’t think they could cook that well. Potatoes are the best, you can do a whole bunch of different things with potatoes. What we’re on the verge of running out from is bread yeast, although in an absolute pinch I could possibly use the beer yeast from my homebrew. And then hope the grocery stores have flour again.

            • You bake bread?! I’ve always wanted to try that. Could you make bagels without yeast?

              I want to be clear that people only bought potatoes after the frozen food was gone. (I recently had to substitute canned mushrooms for fresh ones so people apparently liked fresh over canned.) As for how great potatoes are: I know! I place potatoes above even bread. This reminds me of a great David Mitchell video that sums up my feelings (which I’ve probably shared before):

              • Hmm, bagels without yeast. You could do it with a sourdough starter, I suppose, although I’ve never heard of a sourdough bagel.

                The funny thing, I got into serious bread baking totally on a whim. After moving in here, I was idly digging through the cupboards (as any sensible person would when moving into their dead parents-in-law’s home), and there were all kinds of cooking implements. A waffle iron and a slicer that makes fluted onions, this kind of stuff. There was also a 1980s bread machine.

                “Does this thing work?” I asked. “Not sure,” I was told.

                It works great! Bread machines got a bad rap because the bread that comes out of them is a visually unappealing cube. There’s a workaround for this. You let the machine do all the kneading, then take the dough out before it starts baking and shape it however you like, then cook it in your oven. Amazing results. French, Italian, Cuban (a must for Cubano sandwiches, which are a wonder I’d never experienced on the West Coast). Wild rice bread is a household favorite. Bagels. Pretty much anything with flour/sugar/water/yeast.

                • If it were 5 years ago, I’d run out and get a bread machine. Well, maybe not. I wasn’t working much and didn’t have any money. That’s what sucks about life. Either you don’t have the money or you don’t have the time/energy.

                  I don’t know anything about bagels except that at House of Bagels, they boil them. So I had no idea that you always used yeast. See: I know nothing. But I *am* very opinionated about bagels. Where I live, you have to go out of your way to get good bagels. And it’s strange because we have two excellent bakeries that specialize in bagels. But most places don’t sell their stuff. Typical.

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