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Republicans’ dangerous weaponization of Tara Reade’s allegation against Joe Biden

The issue of alleged sexual impropriety by a prominent political figure has resurfaced, this time in an allegation against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

This harkens back to two years ago, when several women came forward to accuse Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and to four years ago, when more than a dozen women accused President Trump of sexual misconduct and assault.

But that is where the similarities end.  

Republicans will undoubtedly try to paint Democrats as “Me Too” hypocrites. But nothing is more dangerous to women’s welfare than Republican attempts to weaponize this issue.  

Although Biden’s critics will try to equate the allegations, they are really quite different.

Biden and his campaign have faced and dealt with the accusations from former Senate staffer Tara Reade head-on and in an unequivocal manner. When asked during his first TV interview about the allegations by Reade regarding an incident she says occurred in the early 1990s, Biden declared that the incident “never, never happened.” He further explained in a Medium post that the allegations “aren’t true.”

As a friend in law enforcement pointed out to me recently, an allegation this serious would have surfaced during Biden’s vetting process for vice president. It did not. Former Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod recently corroborated this in an op-ed for CNN.

Biden has not disparaged, attacked or tried to discredit Reade or attempted to undermine or question her motives. He distinctly said that she, along with any other woman who has an allegation of sexual misconduct, should be fully heard and taken seriously.

The Biden campaign has said the same. Reade has not been shamed or ridiculed or attacked the way Trump and some Kavanaugh defenders have attacked their accusers. 

This last point is critical to underscore. Republicans have already pounced on Reade’s allegations and accused Democrats of having a double standard, pointing to the Kavanaugh situation as proof.  

Let us be clear: There is no double standard. Kavanaugh’s behavior was uncovered during the vetting process. Republicans then blatantly attempted to silence Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault. They barely allowed for a more thorough FBI background check and reluctantly were forced to allow Ford to testify. The other women did not testify.  

Democrats wholeheartedly support the notion that survivors of sexual misconduct and violence should have the opportunity to tell their stories, regardless of politics and political party.

Democrats also support full transparency; Biden does as well. That is why Biden has sent a letter to the secretary of the Senate asking for the immediate release of any documents related to the complaint Reade said she filed in 1993.  

Can Republicans credibly say they support full transparency on sexual assault accusations against members of their own party? Trump can’t even bring himself to release his taxes, let alone call for full transparency on the myriad allegations of sexual assault lodged against him.

After in-depth investigations by The New York TimesThe Washington Post and The Associated Press,  not one person Reade said she told about this incident in Biden’s Senate office could corroborate her story. Some even said they did not remember her.    

The investigations did not find any credible pattern of misconduct by Biden, either. 

Importantly, even as Biden was rejecting these allegations, he stood up for Reade’s right to speak out, to be heard, to be given the benefit of the doubt until the facts say otherwise. In this case, the facts do seem to say otherwise.

The bigger picture here, and the one that women’s advocates put front and center, is that Biden will be the leader who will wholeheartedly make women’s well-being a priority in the White House. 

For decades, Biden has fought for equal pay for women, for women’s health and reproductive rights, for women’s education, and for survivors of sexual assault to be heard and respected.

One of Biden’s proudest accomplishments was passing the Violence Against Women Act — something for which Reade gave him kudos.  

What can we expect from many Republicans? To poison the well, time and again, and to keep women silent, scared and surrendered.  

People should be judged by their actions. In these unprecedented times, when America needs real leadership, Biden’s decades-long record should assure voters that he will be the champion women, their families and all Americans desperately need in the White House.  

Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee for the party’s 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Españolpolitical commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags 2020 presidential campaign Brett Kavanaugh Christine Blasey Ford David Axelrod Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Me Too movement Tara Reade

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