The New York Times pushed back on Wednesday against Biden campaign talking points claiming that the newspaper concluded that an alleged sexual assault of an aide to the then-senator in 1993 “did not happen,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Biden has not addressed the allegations yet except through his campaign spokesperson, but BuzzFeed reported Tuesday that his campaign was circulating talking points claiming that the Times had investigated the incident and concluded that Tara Reade’s story was false, according to the Free Beacon.
After the Times caught wind of the campaign’s assertions, a spokesperson for the outlet responded swiftly.
Biden campaign talking points “inaccurately suggest a New York Times investigation found that Tara Reade’s allegation ‘did not happen.’ Our investigation made no conclusion.” cc:@melbournecoal NYT spox response to this scoop by @rubycramer @RosieGray
— Lisa Lerer (@llerer) April 29, 2020
Setting things straight
What the Times article actually said is that several people who had worked on Biden’s staff at the time didn’t remember Reade reporting any harassment or filing a complaint, though several others — including her brother and a friend — do remember her talking about the assault with them, as The Intercept reported.
Since that piece was published on April 12, a former neighbor has come forward to tell Business Insider that Reade discussed the incident with her shortly after it allegedly occurred, and video of a woman confirmed by Reade to be her late mother calling into Larry King Live in 1993 to discuss “problems” her daughter had with a prominent senator has also surfaced, according to Fox News.
The evidence that has emerged thus far on both sides is circumstantial at best, but that’s only to be expected for an incident that is said to have taken place 27 years ago and had no direct witnesses.
Attempting to salvage credibility
It’s bad enough that the Times was caught removing — at the behest of the Biden campaign — part of a sentence in the aforementioned article alluding to the accounts of other women who said the former VP had touched them inappropriately or made them uncomfortable, as was reported by The Hill.
If the Times allowed the Biden campaign to categorically declare that its reporting revealed that the alleged assault “did not happen,” it would only damage the outlet’s credibility even further than it already has been.
Already, the paper’s print circulation in 2019 fell to less than a quarter of its peak in 2013 and amounted to less than half its average circulation over the previous decade, according to Statista.
Still, though Biden has appeared for more than a dozen interviews with sympathetic media outlets, he has yet to be asked directly by any reporter about Reade’s accusation, as the Washington Free Beacon points out.
The contrast between the kid-glove treatment Biden has received and the scathing attacks faced by then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 when he was accused of decades-old sexual assault in the absence of any corroboration is stark indeed.
Reade’s allegations were first made over a month ago, and the ongoing lack of media interest is appalling. While the Times may now be attempting to create the appearance of not giving Biden a pass, mainstream outlets on the whole have continued to do precisely that.