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So Far, There Is No Reason Not to Believe Tara Reade

A Commentary By Ted Rall

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Did Joe Biden finger-rape Tara Reade in the Capitol in 1993? No one knows but the two of them. (Given the former vice president's obviously fragile mental state, he might not remember.)

Pending the miraculous discovery of ancient surveillance footage, we may never know the truth about this alleged sexual assault. Still, the issue is worth discussing. To paraphrase former President Richard Nixon, the American people have the right to consider the possibility that a presidential candidate may be a rapist. Reade has the right to be fully heard. Biden has the right to a vigorous defense. And voters have the right to decide whether or not we believe her.

What I find interesting, in part due to my own experience taking on The Los Angeles Times, is the pretzel logic that America's political and media establishment deploy to fend off accusations against elites.

Former prosecutor Michael J. Stern wrote an op-ed for USA Today that has become Democrats' go-to list of reasons we can be "skeptical about Tara Reade's sexual assault claim against Biden." It is entirely devoid of fact, logical reasoning or common sense. And it is the way that many Americans, including those employed by major media outlets, think.

It is also the reason many victims -- probably most victims, and not just of sexual crimes -- don't come forward. The system is set up not to ask reasonable questions based on America's constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence but to discourage legitimate victims from pursuing justice.

"It is reasonable to consider a 27-year reporting delay when assessing the believability of any criminal allegation," Stern writes. Did Gannett furlough its fact-checkers? Reade says she filed a complaint with the appropriate U.S. Senate office at the time and that it was ignored. Even if she had waited 27 years -- which she clearly didn't -- surely, it's possible to imagine that, if you were sexually violated by a U.S. senator and then watched the guy rise to vice president, run for president and then win his party's nomination, you would say to yourself: "Enough is enough! I can't stand the thought of seeing this guy as president of the United States for the next four to eight years! I'm going to break my silence."

Christine Blasey Ford did the same thing. She spoke up when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was elevated to the highest court in the land. Anita Hill reacted to Justice Clarence Thomas' nomination similarly.

Reade says she didn't reveal the vaginal penetration aspect of her story to a media outlet because she didn't feel comfortable with the reporter. "It is hard to believe a reporter would discourage this kind of scoop," Stern writes. "Regardless, it's also hard to accept that it took Reade 12 months to find another reporter eager to break that bombshell story." Why should that be hard to believe? She has corroborating witnesses now yet still has difficulty getting media outlets interested in interviewing her. It isn't easy to find a smart reporter who gets what you have to say.

Stern says Reade's claim that "she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault ... could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation." When your personal space is brutally violated, whether by sexual assault or a mugging or police brutality, you are shocked. You focus on the trauma: what happened to you and who did it, not the where and when. Memories of trauma tend to be fragmented and incomplete. It would be preferable if Reade had had the presence of mind to recall that data. But not having it doesn't make her a liar.

Stern says Reade lied about how she left Biden's employ. "Leaving a job after refusing to serve drinks at a Biden fundraiser is vastly different than being fired as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate," Stern alleges. Actually, there is hardly any difference. The law calls what happened to her "constructive termination." Most retaliation in the workplace takes the form of being demeaned until the victim quits. It's an illegal firing, and you can be sued for it.

The silliest smears against Reade concern her politics: "Reade essentially dismissed the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election as hype." So do I. So do 40% of Americans. So what? Stern notes her support for Sen. Bernie Sanders. "The confluence of Reade's support of Sanders, distaste for the traditional American democracy epitomized by Biden, and the timing of her allegation should give pause to even the most strident Biden critics," Stern declares.

If your politics are slightly unconventional, according to this former prosecutor, you must be lying when you say you were raped. Or, just maybe, she supported Sanders in part because he never tried to rape her. Perhaps "the timing of her allegation" stemmed from her dismay that her rapist was about to become president of the United States. And the cheap psychological gambit that Joe "Captain America" Biden epitomizes "traditional American democracy" is so ridiculous that it merits no response.

The truth may come out, and it may vindicate Joe Biden. Even so, the media will remain guilty and complicit of stupidity in the service of the rich and powerful.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography "Bernie." You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns by sponsoring his work on Patreon. To find out more about Ted Rall and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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