Harassment charges: Biden denies but drama unlikely to end soon

Biden may not be in any serious trouble at this point of time as investigations by independent media thus far have shown nothing out of the ordinary; but this is a story that will not fade away

Joseph Biden, Tara Reade, President Donald Trump, sexual harassment, #MeToo
Biden is also closing in on Trump in key state Pennsylvania where the president is leading

After sitting on it for five weeks and in the process making his supporters nervous and queasy, the former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 election, Joseph Biden, finally looked into a camera on May 1 and said, “This never, ever, happened.”

He said this when asked as to what he would say to his former staffer Tara Reade who has accused him of sexual assault by way of pinning her down in a Senate hallway, prying her legs open and pushing his fingers into her private parts.

“I don’t know what is motivating her… But it’s irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened. Period,” Biden said prior to his MSNBC appearance and making a point that “responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both big and small ways.”

What Biden must be referring to is of Reade joining a group of about eight women who first levelled sexual harassment charges against Biden when he was a Senator by touching them inappropriately and in ways that made them uncomfortable.


In April 2019, Reade was quoted in a local California paper The Union saying that Biden “used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck.” But on March 25 this year, Reade, in a podcast, accused Biden of sexual assault and went on to file a report with the Washington D.C. police on April 9 about an incident that happened in 1993.

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Reade and the Group of women who made the allegations against Biden were at that time seen in the context of the #MeToo movement which was taking its toll on movie moguls and politicians in Washington DC and elsewhere.

“I don’t know why after 27 years all of a sudden this gets raised,” Biden mused in the MSNBC interview not knowing perhaps that mediapersons are going to be quizzing him irrespective of the time frame. For one thing Biden had been a supporter of women’s rights and the #MeToo movement and had openly supported Christine Blasley Ford when she publicly accused Brett Kavanaugh, a nominee for the United States Supreme Court, for sexual assault at a party in 1982, or some 36 years ago.

At that time in 2018 Biden said, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets the facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time. But nobody fails to understand that this is like jumping into a cauldron.”

So how is Reade any different from Ford, the former Senator was pressed. “ What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was that she had the right to be heard. The fact that (Ford) came forward, the presumption would be she’s telling the truth unless it’s proved she wasn’t telling the truth or not proved, but unless it’s clear from the facts surrounding it, it’s not the truth,” Biden said adding that any woman who comes forward should be heard and all sexual assault allegations including those against him levelled by Reade “should be investigated.”

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Biden pushed for an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to the Senate voting on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. His refrain then was “… the woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be, you know, abused again by the system”. Kavanaugh was cleared by the FBI and went on to be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

In the current context what is being pointed out is that Biden has called upon the media to inquire and asked the National Archives to throw open all of his public Senate records including those at the University of Delaware even waiving time stipulations. But why has not Biden called for an FBI inquiry on the Reade allegations so as to clear his name once and for all, is the question some in the media and political circles are asking?

Biden may not be in any serious trouble at this point of time as investigations by independent media thus far have shown nothing out of the ordinary; but this is a story that will not fade away anytime soon. It will keep recurring at short bursts of time and depending on whether the political opposition would want to take advantage of the situation. It may be tempting for the Trump re-election to keep this topic alive; but it also surely knows the dangers of the Biden Campaign coming back and with force on a topic that President Donald Trump is all too familiar with during the 2016 campaign.

In the context of the Reade allegations, Biden got some unexpected help from none other than the President himself who suggested that the allegations could be false. “I don’t know anything about it, I don’t know exactly. I think he should respond… It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times,” Trump said.

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American politics with or without the election process have been laced with Presidential or Presidential hopeful indiscretions but with a world of difference between how the media went about in the 1960s, 1970s and thereafter. Nearly all journalists and media houses knew the weaknesses of Presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson whether it had to do with partying or multiple affairs. Johnson is said to have remarked once, “ I have had more women by accident than he (meaning Kennedy) has had by choice”. Private lives of Presidents in the White House or campaign trails were strictly their private business.

But all this changed in the 1980s when Senator Gary Hart seeking the Democratic Party nomination in 1988 challenged the media in 1987 to prove he had an extra marital relationship. “They should follow me around…They’ll be very bored,” he said while the media took him up on his offer. As John Chancellor of NBC News put it, “ We did. We weren’t” — meaning not bored. Five days after challenging the media, Hart withdrew his candidacy after a newspaper published a picture of his friend Donna Rice sitting on Hart’s lap aboard a yacht in Florida, coincidentally named Monkey Business!

And in 2008 yet another promising Democratic candidate, Senator John Edwards bowed out of the nomination race admitting to an extramarital affair but only after the media had pursued his earlier denials. Biden and his campaign staff seem confident to ride out of this mini-storm.

(The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington DC, covering North America and the United Nations)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal)