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Does this presumption not apply when the guy being accused is a Democrat running for president? Tara Reade, who worked with Joe Biden, alleges he inappropriately touched her in 1993. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Does this presumption not apply when the guy being accused is a Democrat running for president?  Tara Reade, who worked with Joe Biden, alleges he inappropriately touched her in 1993. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Why Has the Media Ignored Sexual Assault and Misbehaviour Allegations Against Biden?

Conservatives who didn’t care about the multiple sexual assault allegations against Trump have seized on the accusations while liberals turn a blind eye.

Arwa Mahdawi

 by The Guardian

Why are sexual assault and misbehaviour allegations against Biden being ignored?

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has been accused of sexual assault by a former staffer. Tara Reade, who worked with Biden when he was a Delaware senator, alleges he inappropriately touched her and penetrated her with his fingers without consent in 1993.

“It happened all at once, and then … his hands were on me and underneath my clothes,” Reade recalled in an interview with podcast host Katie Halper on Wednesday. “He said ‘come on, man, I heard you liked me. For me, it was like, everything shattered … I wanted to be a senator; I didn’t want to sleep with one.”

Rightwing news outlets have gleefully seized upon the accusations against Biden; the story has also been discussed by leftwing commentators. However, the mainstream media has largely ignored the allegations. Instead there have been headlines like The top 10 women Joe Biden might pick as VP (CNN) and Joe Biden’s inner circle: No longer a boy’s club (AP).

It is hugely frustrating to see conservatives, who couldn’t give a damn about the multiple sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, weaponize the accusations against Biden. However, it’s also frustrating to see so many liberals turning a blind eye. The accusations against the former vice-president are serious; why aren’t they being taken seriously?

One obvious reason is that Reade’s accusations are very hard to prove. The incident happened a long time ago and there weren’t any witnesses. Reade also gave a slightly different version of events last year; she accused Biden of touching her neck and shoulders in a way that was inappropriate and uncomfortable, but did not say anything sexual took place. This inconsistency obviously doesn’t mean she’s lying; unfortunately, it is easy to use against her.

Reade’s story may be impossible to verify, but this is the case with the vast majority of sexual assault allegations. It is nearly always a case of “he said, she said” – and it is nearly always the “he’ that is automatically believed. The #MeToo mantra “Believe Women” doesn’t mean that women never lie; it means that our systems of power are biased towards believing men never lie. It means that it takes decades of allegations and scores of women coming forward for powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Cosby to be brought to justice. All the mantra means is that you shouldn’t automatically disbelieve women.

You know who has talked publicly about the importance of taking women seriously? Biden. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Biden stood up for Dr Christine Blasey Ford, noting: “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.”

Does this presumption not apply when the guy being accused is a Democrat running for president? It would seem that way. In January, according to reporting from the Intercept, Reade asked for help from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which has supported accusers of high-profile people like Weinstein. Reade was reportedly told by the National Women’s Law Center, the organization within which the Time’s Up fund is housed, that it couldn’t assist with accusations against a presidential candidate because it would jeopardize their non-profit status. The Intercept further notes that “the public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign”.

There are some people who will insist that drawing attention to the new allegations against Biden is playing into the Republicans’ hands. That it will destroy Biden’s campaign and guarantee us four more years of Trump. Not only is that argument hypocritical, it is also hugely unlikely that Reade’s accusations will do any damage whatsoever to Biden’s ambitions. Allegations of sexual assault certainly haven’t posed any hindrance to Trump. The allegations against Kavanaugh didn’t stop him from becoming a supreme court justice. The allegations against Louis CK didn’t kill his career in comedy. And the multiple women who have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately in the past haven’t exactly derailed his career.


© 2020 The Guardian

Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist and brand strategist based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ArwaM

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