CW: Sexual assault, graphic detail
It has been 24 hours since Alexandra Tara Reade went public with her account of being raped by former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. #IBelieveTara is trending at #1 on Twitter. Yet, it is nowhere to be found on the news, and the only journalists talking about it are the ones who broke the story.
Tara Reade was a Senate staffer at Biden’s office in 1993. She has waited 27 years for justice. Last year, after Nevada politician Lucy Flores accused Biden of inappropriately touching her, Reade realized that she was not the only one who felt violated by Joe Biden. Other women also stepped forward with their own accounts. Reade then had spoken up (a partial account, to validate the accounts of the other accusers) about how Biden inappropriately touched her on several occasions in the workspace, in front of office staff, as well as retribution and discrimination at the workplace (abuse of power). She had even complained to Senate personnel back then. She has been a lifelong Democrat till date.
She was branded as a Russian asset by influential Democrats as well as by journalists such as Edward Isaac Dovere – an act of media gaslighting. Reade said attacks such as these dissuaded her from pursuing the matter and revealing the full story of what had happened to her, including more serious charges.
An article by Ryan Grim in The Intercept describes how Reade sought help in January from the main post-#MeToo advocacy group, Time’s Up (which offers both legal help as well as highlighting cases), which first accepted her account and petition, promised her legal help, public relations help and financial aid for the same. Within a month, the group soon took a U-turn and informed her that they would be unable to help her in any way, and thanked her for privately sharing her account – effectively silencing her.
The reason cited was Biden being a candidate for federal office, and that a #MeToo campaign against him funded by them would threaten their charitable donation fundraising status. An added fact was that the firm that did the PR for the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, the managing director of which is top Biden staffer and lobbyist Anita Dunn. Anita Dunn in the past privately worked to undo key Obama policies, advised Harvey Weinstein on damage control as The New York Times broke the #MeToo allegations on him (in her private capacity, for free, as a friend –mind you), and referred to Bernie Sanders as “the kind of protester who often shows up at campaign events on live television”.
Krystal Ball raised an important point when she questioned whether Time’s Up multitude of contributors were aware that federal candidates accused of sexual assault would be given a free pass by the organization – since the main branding of Time’s Up was all about taking on sexual offenders in powerful positions?
The rape charge
Katie Halper interviewed Reade on her podcast, and Reade chose to give her full account. She revealed, graphically, breaking down when recounting that day at many points in the conversation, that it was not just inappropriate touching on several occasions, but flat-out rape on one occasion.
Reade recalled a staffer asked her to take a gym bag to Biden “down towards the Capitol”, where upon arrival Biden took her aside.
“We were alone and it was the strangest thing. There was no like exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
Reade went on to say that she was wearing a business skirt and wasn’t wearing stockings, because it was hot at the time. While up against the wall, Reade says Biden’s “hands were on me and underneath my clothes.”
“He went down my skirt but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers,” Reade emotionally continued.
Reade also said Biden was kissing her and saying multiple things to her. She remembered a couple of the comments.
“I remember him saying first, like as he was doing it, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else,' and then him saying to me when I pulled away, he got finished doing what he was doing, and I kind of just pulled back and he said, ‘Come on man, I heard you liked me.’ And that phrase stayed with me because I kept thinking what I might’ve said and I can’t remember exactly if he said ‘i thought’ or ‘I heard’ but he implied that I had done this.”
Upon getting rebuffed, “He took his finger. He just like pointed at me and said you’re nothing to me”, twice.
Reade then went on to say that “everything shattered in that moment” for her because she knew that there were no witnesses and she looked up to him. “He was like my father’s age,” she said. “He was like this champion of women’s rights in my eyes and I couldn’t believe it was happening. It seemed surreal.”
She said her expression must have showed that, because Biden grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “You’re okay. You’re fine” and proceeded to walk away.
“..what I remember next was being in the Russell building like where the big windows are in the stairs by myself, and my body - I was shaking everywhere because it was cold all of the sudden. I don't know - I just felt like I was shaking- just everywhere, and I was trying to grasp what just happened and what I should do or what I should say. But I knew it was bad because he was so angry.”
At the end, Reade stated to Halper what disturbed her the most about Biden’s words:
“And the thing that I remember most- almost more than the assault itself, was that I was nothing. And he was right. That's how people treated me. That's how the whole office treated me. And I have no platform. I am no one. And to him I'm nothing. So yeah. Um. So people want to know why women don't come forward, that's a good example why.”
What Biden is alleged to have committed goes far beyond what was earlier known: from inappropriate touching to rape, from sexual harassment to sexual assault.
Washington DC has recently overturned the statute of limitations on sex crimes, meaning Biden can still be prosecuted. Further, penetration by the fingers comes under the legal definition of rape under DC law.
Not a single journalist during Joe Biden’s virtual press briefing chose to ask him about it.
#MeToo hero journalist Ronan Farrow is nowhere to be found.
Top Biden aide Symone Sanders and Joe Biden himself were busy on Twitter publicizing Biden’s “Happy Hour” livestream aimed at “young Americans”.
CNN’s Jake Tapper happily tweeted that Biden didn’t drink (“Happy Hour”), and that Joe Biden and Trump were both teetotalers, instead of doing his job as a journalist and reporting on yesterday’s allegations. Chris Cuomo was busy covering his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo handling his state’s coronavirus response.
The same people who did segment after segment, wrote column after column over whether Sanders was a sexist for having allegedly told Elizabeth Warren that “a woman couldn’t win the presidency” have turned into silent enablers of Biden’s record of conduct with women. Were it Sanders or any other politican accused of rape, this would have been making headlines.
Neera Tanden, head for Center for American Progress and close to Clinton and the Biden camps, was one of the top offenders when it came to indiscriminately branding people “Russian assets”. Though she portrays herself as a leader of the #Resistance, there was only silence from her on the Reade issue. It is interesting to note that she herself unethically outed an anonymous complainant’s name to the rest of her company, and took no actions on two complaints at her institution.
Reade stated that she tried to contact Senator Elizabeth Warren about the matter, but all she received was a form letter to contact her local representative.
Kirsten Gillibrand, who made headlines when she went out of her way to vocally stand up and demand that Al Franken resign as Senator (a success) before the allegations were substantiated, is altogether missing when it comes to Joe Biden, who she endorsed.
The issue also seems to have made little difference to Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom seemingly still stand by their endorsement of Biden. Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, projected as “Champions” of women’s rights, have kept mum as well.
Republicans, Fox News and even Donald Trump are also conspicuously quiet on the matter, because one would assume that Trump, Sean Hannity, Chris Wallace, Jeanine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham would pounce on the news.
It appears that the economy’s tumble due to the coronavirus crisis has made Trump and Republicans a little less sure of victory in November, and they need Joe Biden to win the nomination to hold on to power. Since Sanders, who has a better chance of beating Trump in the election, hasn’t dropped out – they do not want to damage Biden’s primary chances. They will possibly save the story for the general election fight.
As of now, the Bernie Sanders camp has not commented on the issue directly, as they are the most at risk of being accused of weaponising the issue in order to defeat Biden in the primary, dividing the party, giving the struggle for justice a sectarian color and for the media to sweep it under the rug – leaving it to others.
As of now, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Pramila Jayapal appear the lawmakers most likely to take a stand.
What does that tell us about Democrats?
What this case shows all the more is the fact that women Democratic primary voters (specifically, moderates, suburban women and older women of all ethnicities) still went ahead and voted en masse for Joe Biden, who is not only accused of sexual harassment and now sexual assault/rape, but has a truly terrible record on abortion rights, equal pay, bankruptcy, Social Security, and the debt trap (not to mention the sexism shown towards Anita Hill). Further, it makes the Democrat outrage over Trump’s genuinely bad record on women, and the uproar they made over Brett Kavanaugh, seem rather fake.
Voters in the general election would have to choose between an alleged rapist from the Democratic Party and an alleged rapist from the Republican Party. Democratic voters aside, Biden is no longer the “electable” candidate in the general election - and in any case Biden should drop out and step down on account of the charges.
Democratic lawmakers seem more interested in knocking a democratic socialist out of the reckoning than upholding gender justice, in an effort to defend their corporatist interests. They would rather have Trump win the election, than call on Biden to step down.
At the time of writing of this article, other than NewsOne and Breitbart, only this article speaks of the rape charge, as does Katie Halper’s podcast interview. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim’s article deals with Time’s Up and the silencing, as does Krystal Ball’s segment on Rising on the #MeToo advocacy group covering up for Biden – not the rape charge. Krystal Ball has announced she would be interviewing Tara Reade. Journalists Nathan J Robinson, Shaun King and Megan Day have also raised the matter on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Twitter has removed #IBelieveTara from the Trending list even though it has more tweets than any other entry, and is growing at a much faster rate.
Since the story broke yesterday, Joe Biden has declared his unwillingness to debate Sanders again, though a debate was to be scheduled for April, perhaps wanting to avoid questions from the moderators on this.
Not a single Democrat has spoken up. The silence speaks volumes.
[Update: Yahoo News has covered the allegations, as has Democracy Now]
The author is a PhD research scholar in Modern and Contemporary History at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and also an independent journalist and contributor to various media portals. Follow him on Twitter at: @SaibBilaval