One way or another, it feels like the Reade saga will be a watershed for #MeToo.
Either it’ll wreck liberals’ feminist credibility for prioritizing partisan interests over justice for sexual assault victims or it’ll damage accusers’ collective credibility because Reade’s allegations fell apart.
“Believe All Women” is taking a major hit either way.
Or both ways, actually. Even if Reade is discredited, the wave of “I can overlook Joe’s sexual battery” pieces from Democrats to this point revealed just how seriously they take sexual violence when they have political skin in the game.
You should read this new Politico piece in full rather than rely on me to describe it to you, as there’s lots of detail. I’ll tell you up front that there’s no smoking gun in it that Reade’s lying about Biden. It’s a character analysis based on people who’ve known her personally, mainly people who rented property to her and now hold grudges about how she handled her obligations to them. Supposedly she’s a chronic deadbeat on paying her rent, with Politico alleging a “pattern” to her behavior: “Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills.”
No fewer than five peopled interviewed claimed she told them “positive” things about her time in Joe Biden’s office.
At least three claim to have been misled by her in different ways, with one describing her as “deceitful” and another as a “liar.” (One, who claims Reade damaged a property he rented to her, describes himself as one of several “Alexandra/Tara survivors,” a reference to another name used by Reade.) The impression you’re left with is that she’s untrustworthy. Untrustworthy enough to invent a story about a sexual assault committed by a presidential candidate? Read it yourself and draw your own conclusion. But also be sure to read this post from this morning citing an extensive report from PBS about details in Reade’s Biden story that don’t add up. There’s no location in the Russell Senate building that matches her description of where the assault happened; another Biden staffer claims she was fired because her performance on the job was poor; other Biden staffers told PBS they don’t recall any Biden fundraisers held in D.C., contradicting Reade’s claim that she was asked by Biden to serve drinks at one.
Reade’s lawyer accused Politico of engaging in the same ol’ character assassination that victims of sexual assault who accuse prominent men have faced forever, which ends up discouraging #MeToo victims from coming forward. And he made a fair point in reminding them that some of Harvey Weinstein’s victims had “positive” things to say about him too in the years after they were allegedly assaulted. One of Reade’s former landlords said she spoke of Biden in the context of “I can get my life together, I worked for Joe Biden. I had a really high-level job. I have that capacity,” which might explain why she never mentioned an assault by him. It sounds like she was desperate for a chance and took to name-dropping Biden to impress them.
There’s also the small matter of how Politico came into contact with all of these people. Did Biden’s campaign reach out to them first and put them in touch? How many of the people interviewed are supporting Biden over Trump this fall?
Here’s a noteworthy passage describing how another former landlord, an attorney named Kelly Klett, interacted with Reade. Klett claims she cut Reade a break on rent and even lent her her old law books to help her study for the bar. In return, she says, Reade skipped out on the reduced rent, never returned the books, and ended up asking her for money repeatedly even after she was asked to leave. Then, last year, Reade called her again.
Reade called Klett in 2019 after first publicly lodging allegations that Biden inappropriately touched her. At the time, Reade did not share details of an assault.
“I felt two things when she contacted me: that she was feeling me out to see if I would represent her pro bono. And there was a sense that she was trying to plant a story with me, so she could later say: ‘I told the story to this attorney I worked with,’” Klett said.
“I support women who have been assaulted. Unfortunately, I cannot support Tara Reade,” she said. “When she first contacted me regarding this issue, she could not provide enough credible information. And since that time the story has evolved in the media. I question her motives.”
That bit about planting a story reminded me of a passage from Vox’s recent story about Reade. Reporter Laura McGann was researching Reade’s story last year and Reade put her in touch with an unnamed friend who supposedly could corroborate her account of what happened with Biden — sort of. Here’s what the friend told McGann in 2019:
“On the scale of other things we heard, and I feel ashamed, but it wasn’t that bad. [Biden] never tried to kiss her directly. He never went for one of those touches. It was one of those, ‘sorry you took it that way.’ I know that is very hard to explain,” the friend told me. She went on: “What was creepy was that it was always in front of people.”
After Reade accused Biden of sexual assault, McGann went back to the friend and asked her about the discrepancy:
I spoke with Reade’s friend again this week. She said that Reade had told her about the alleged assault the week it happened in 1993. I asked the friend why, then, did she volunteer so explicitly that Biden “never tried to kiss her” or touch her inappropriately. “It just organically rolled out that way,” the friend said. “[Reade] and I had many conversations a year ago about what her degree of comfort was. She wanted to leave a layer there, and I did not want to betray that. It just wasn’t my place.”
Did the friend lie to McGann in 2019 or is she lying to her now? What sort of details did Reade disclose to her friend for the first time in the “many conversations” they had in 2019, coincidentally the same year Klett got the impression that Reade was trying to “plant a story” with her?
One point shouldn’t be lost amid all of this, though: If I’m not mistaken, there’s no evidence that Reade has tried to monetize her story about Biden. She’s not shopping a book, is she? She didn’t go to the tabloids and try to cash in there. The takeaway from the Politico story is that she was desperate for cash during the period when she was alienating her former landlords, which would conceivably provided a motive for her to smear Biden now. But that motive is lacking. So if she’s lying about him, why?