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Tara Reade and the Media’s Double Standard

Friday afternoon, the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden took on a whole new level of legitimacy. An archived clip from CNN’s “Larry King Live” from 1993 appeared to feature Reade’s late mother, Jeanette Altimus, telling King about the alleged encounter.

Reade later confirmed this was her mother’s voice. Reade has described, in detail, an encounter she said happened between her and then Senator Biden in 1993. She says, after she took Biden his gym bag, that he pushed her against a wall, shoved his hands up her skirt and assaulted her, while also kissing her and suggesting they find a more private location. Reade, Biden’s former staffer, said she pulled away and Biden scolded her, saying, “Come on man. I heard you liked me.”

Reade went public with her story in 2019, but left out the accusation of sexual assault, instead claiming sexual harassment because she says she was fired after refusing Biden’s less aggressive advances. In March of this year, she provided the additional details of the alleged assault.

There is no apparent proof of Reade’s claims and Biden has denied any wrongdoing. Depending on your opinion of the former Vice President, or your position on taking womens’ claims of sexual assault at face value, you might tend to believe or disbelieve Reade. Certainly, Joe Biden deserves the presumption of innocence until or unless significant evidence is found to the contrary. The same should be said for anyone accused of sexual assault, even if his name is Brett Kavanaugh.

As you may recall – and how could you forget – Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh was accused by several women of sexual assault after his nomination to the high court in 2018. Like Reade’s story, those women’s accusations were of events from decades ago. Like Reade’s story, there was no actual evidence that the assaults took place. Unlike Reade’s claim, there was no contemporaneous nationally televised conversation that seemed to lend credence to the claims right after they happened. And quite emphatically unlike Reade’s claims, the accusations against Kavanaugh were believed by virtually every political opponent, documented as fact and covered breathlessly by the mainstream media.

As of this writing, about 24 hours have passed since the first media report I could locate was published about the Larry King interview. The Intercept reported these new developments at 2:39 pm Friday afternoon. Since then, Fox News, Politico, The New York Post and a few others have run the story, with the haunting audio of Reade’s mother telling King that her daughter was stonewalled when trying to report “problems” with a “prominent senator.” (As an aside, can you imagine any reporter not pressing the caller for a name and more details if a caller referenced a “prominent senator” in a discussion about sexual harassment?)

Guess who has NOT covered this breaking new development. CNN, the network that aired the footage in 1993, has been completely silent. I perused their website and didn’t see any mention of the story. I thought that it would at least be on their Politics page. It’s not. This is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Ignoring the story before Friday was unfair and biased. Failing to cover it now that there’s video from their own network, airing this potentially corroborative evidence, should eliminate any remaining doubt the public may have that CNN has lost all political integrity. I was also unable to find any coverage on MSNBC’s website of Reade’s claim or the Larry King video. These are the same two networks that ran endless coverage of the Kavanaugh character assault and paraded guests and hosts alike on screen to proclaim his guilt.

A quick scan of other national news media websites, including searches for “Tara Reade” in each site’s search tool, revealed scant coverage of anything pertaining to Reade. ABC News ran an article on April 13, but nothing since the Larry King video emerged. An article was posted Friday on CBS News’ site about the Biden campaign returning a donation from Louis C.K. because of sexual assault allegations against the comedian. Buried in the story is a reference to Reade’s claim, but nothing about the Larry King video. This story was published more than two hours after The Intercept’s article. Likewise, NBC News ran stories on April 12 and 13, but nothing since.

So, what’s different? The presumed Democrat Presidential nominee and former VP and senator is certainly a bigger name than a previously little-known Supreme Court nominee. True, more than one woman accused Kavanaugh. Two later admitted lying. The very first one – Christine Blasey Ford – was immediately believed and brought to testify at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Each person present at the event Ford described declined to corroborate her assault claim. Another difference is the political party of the accused. One was a pro-life, conservative judge, nominated by Donald Trump. The other is a beloved Democrat, who has carried his party’s mantle for decades and now, finally has his turn in the spotlight. Those are facts and that is why the claims against each man have received such disparate coverage in the media. It’s shameful and it’s embarrassing that such an inconsistent standard exists. It’s even more shameful that so many Americans fall for it.

Author’s note: Shortly after this article was published, CNN released a story acknowledging Reade’s claim that her mother called into “Larry King Live” in 1993.

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