Opinion: Democrats Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Questioning (or Disbelieving) Tara Reade
Updated: 6 days ago
Author: Diana Piper
I believed Christine Blasey Ford. I did not expend much of my time examining her allegation (though, like everyone else, I watched portions of the hearing), but her case seemed robust and comprehensive. When Brett Kavanaugh cried about frivolous activities (like keeping calendars), I was certain they were crocodile tears.
Two years later, I was struck by an ostensibly similar accusation: former Vice President Joe Biden’s alleged sexual assault of former staffer Tara Reade. Less apt to join the extremities of belief and disbelief as I was two years ago, I faced a conundrum. Although Biden had exhibited disconcerting behavior before (like kissing the back of a woman’s head), I characterized him as a decent man. His previous sins were venial. But Reade’s allegation strayed beyond other women’s accounts; it was untenable sexual assault. If I were to believe Reade, as I did with Ford, then how could I possibly endorse Biden for President?
I monitored the actions of other prominent Democrats for a model of how to approach this conflict, to little avail. They aligned themselves with Biden (especially those aiming for his Vice Presidential nomination), but equivocated when asked for reasoning. One of the tenets of the Democratic Party in recent years has been to believe women, making it seemingly difficult to justify advocating for Biden’s campaign. Supporting him seemed more like a political necessity than a proper deduction.
Data courtesy of Mounmouth University
But is it really true that Democrats have been negligent in evaluating Reade’s account? Of course, there cannot be a trial, especially not in the current conditions, but there is mounting evidence against Reade’s accusation. Inconsistencies are evident. When she first made the allegation, it was an alteration of her original claim. Previously, her charge was a well-understood story of mild sexual harassment, now she tells a horrifying one of sexual assault.
Of course, many true allegations have ambiguities and inconsistencies, but Reade’s are quite numerous. Evading standard TV interviews was another forewarning of a weak case.
Ford’s case was much more potent. Her account was limpid and rigid, and she testified under oath. Democrats gave her the benefit of the doubt when she first accused Kavanaugh, and she returned that favor by presenting a thorough and substantive case. Comparing Ford and Reade, as I have learned, is a false equivalence — a logical fallacy. One strain of my internal conflict (the incongruity of believing Ford and disbelieving Reade) was dissolved.
The other issue was my and other Democrats’ established practice of believing women. Yet, once I examined the term more closely, that strain resolved as well.
Believing women is not unwavering and absolute. It allows women to tell their story on a proper platform and not be dismissed immediately. After women have aired their accusations, their account should be verified. Right-wing media has contorted this idea of believing women to that of an absolute defense of all accusers. That is an indefensible position in jurisprudence, and sexual assault, after all, is a matter of jurisprudence.
After all of this self-revelation, I could not bring myself to wholeheartedly dismiss Reade. In the interview that she did do, she was visibly shaken and dolorous. And there was a recording of a phone call with a woman, who Reade identified as her mother, whose daughter had “problems” with a prominent senator in 1993. This is circumstantial, but since there will be no trial, I can only review circumstance. I will err on the side of disbelief, but Reade cannot be fully disregarded. Complete and unwavering disregard is a separate travesty, on par with complete and unwavering regard. There is a balance that we must strike.
Tara Reade’s accusation will, in all likelihood, be discarded, along with Christine Blasey Ford’s and Anita Hill’s. Since dozens of women have accused Biden’s opposition (Donald Trump), alleged sexual assault will surely not become a point of contention between the two in the upcoming election. But even with the mounting apathy and manufactured equivalencies, it is imperative to distinguish corroborated accusations from largely unsubstantiated claims. Ford’s and Reade’s cases could not be more different — Democrats must not forget that.