The WaPo and NYTimes on Tara Reade, Joe Biden, and the Sexual Assault Allegation

Tara Reade.

In the Washington Post, media writer Paul Farhi says “Ryan Grim helped push the Reade story into the mainstream. What does he think of it now?” Some excerpts:

The past few weeks haven’t been kind to Tara Reade, the woman who has accused former vice president Joe Biden of sexual assault. Several of Reade’s former landlords and acquaintances say she manipulated and deceived them. Lawyers say she inflated her résuméas a prosecution witness in several criminal cases, and a district attorney in California is investigating whether she perjured herself. Her attorney quit on her after just two weeks.

Ryan Grim is unmoved.

Grim — a journalist whose work has given prominence and credence to Reade’s allegations, which Biden has firmly denied — thinks the latest revelations don’t really change the story’s basic contours.

“It’s messy and getting messier,” he said last week. Those “who don’t believe her, or don’t want to believe her, have plenty to cling to. People who do believe her, or who want to believe her, do as well, though many people in the middle have shifted to the doubtful camp as more questions have arisen.”. . .

As Washington bureau chief of the Intercept, he was among the first journalists to showcase Reade’s latest allegations of abusive treatment when she worked in Biden’s office. And when, shortly thereafter, she alleged on a podcast that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993, Grim was noisy in his efforts to call attention to the story — both on Twitter, where he has more than 150,000 followers, and in interviews discussing each twist and turn. . . .

As for the doubts raised about Reade’s credibility, Grim suggests that’s somewhat beside the point.

“The question is whether the discrediting information [about Reade] disqualifies her from making her allegations publicly,” he said. “Given that multiple people say she’s been telling this story for 25-plus years, I don’t think she’s disqualified. . . . Biden’s campaign was right to say, ‘Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims.’ ”

But given all the discrediting information, does he believe Tara Reade?

“That’s the wrong question to ask,” he replied. “The question for the media should be, do you believe she has a right to be heard? I think we in the media should continue to report out her story. Our job is to put the evidence in the public domain and let the public decide what to do with it.”
The New York Times did dig for the evidence in a page one story today by Jim Rutenberg, Stephanie Saul, and Lisa Lerer headlined “For Biden’s Accuser, Long Road Marked by Verve and Acrimony”:

Last spring, after years of strife with friends and neighbors and a constant struggle for money, Tara Reade was making a fresh start in a new town, Grass Valley, Calif., near the outskirts of Tahoe National Forest.

She found a place for her adopted rescue horse, Charm, and a tidy ground-level apartment for herself and her cats. Ms. Reade, who had moved from the Santa Cruz area, told friends about a new passion and appreciation for Russia, its culture and its leader. She was working on a novel.

But trouble would find her in Grass Valley, too. Work would be hard to come by. Her car would be repossessed. Rent would fall into arrears. Acquaintances who tried to help would accuse her of failing to repay the money they had lent her, of skipping out on bills and misleading them, just as others had done in the places she had left behind.

It was a messy life, played out in obscurity.

Then came accusations from several women that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had made them uncomfortable by touching or kissing them inappropriately in public settings.

Ms. Reade was reminded of her own experience with Mr. Biden, as a junior aide in his Senate office in 1993, and she went public in her local paper. Mr. Biden, she said, would rest his hands on her shoulder and run a finger along her neck. After he requested that she serve drinks at a reception because he “liked my legs,” she said, she refused, only to be marginalized and ultimately forced out.

Eleven months later, after alleging behavior that in her own telling fell short of “sexual misconduct” — it was “about abuse of power,” she said then — she would level a much more serious charge, of sexual assault, which Mr. Biden flatly denies.

Now Ms. Reade’s own back story has been caught up in the churn of #MeToo-era politics, as rising questions about her credibility add fuel to the social-media combat between Mr. Biden’s defenders and detractors. . . .

To better understand Ms. Reade’s tumultuous journey to the roiling center of the presidential campaign, The New York Times interviewed nearly 100 friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors and reviewed court records. What emerged was a shambolic life in which Ms. Reade, through her own pluck and smarts and powers of persuasion, overcame an unsettled and abusive childhood to find opportunities on the big stages of acting, politics and law. She won praise for what friends took as a sincere commitment to helping other abuse victims and to animal rescue.

“She was very funny and very engaging and completely well educated, intelligent,” said one former friend and co-worker, Deborah Ayres. But, she added, there was also “this other side that didn’t add up.”. . .

In many ways, The Times’s findings comport with the autobiography Ms. Reade, now 56, has rendered in cinematic detail across blog posts, online essays and court statements. But in the dramatic retelling of her life story she has also shown a tendency to embellish — a role as a movie extra is presented as a break; her title of “staff assistant” with clerical responsibilities in Mr. Biden’s office becomes “legislative assistant” when his shepherding of the Violence Against Women Act is an asset for her expert-witness testimony in court.

And there are the former friends who describe how she spun her way into their confidence with her story of abuse and perseverance, only to leave them feeling disappointed and duped.

Ms. Reade has insisted those friends were in the wrong — one was a “slumlord,” another a “drunk,” a third a tax cheat — just as she said Antioch was mistaken about her degree. In an email, she acknowledged taking “creative license” in some parts of her online biography. Other parts, she said, might include honest mistakes. . . .

In interviews with The Times last year, she described Mr. Biden’s office as dominated by “alpha males.” But her arrival also came as Mr. Biden was working to undo the reputational damage wrought by his leadership of the insensitive all-male questioning of Anita Hill during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas.

By 1993, Mr. Biden was crafting the Violence Against Women Act and going out of his way to empower women on his staff. It was an unwritten rule that the senator preferred male aides to do menial tasks like chauffeuring him or fetching coffee, former aides have said.

The Biden Senate world was populated by striving Type A’s, and had a small-c conservative culture in which Ms. Reade didn’t quite fit. Former aides remember her as prone to storytelling and oversharing personal information. She rarely socialized with colleagues after work.

Ms. Reade has described chafing at the Ivy League tilt of the staff, and arguing for more interns from state schools. But her workplace issues would grow exponentially, starting with what she has described as the uncomfortable shoulder rubs from Mr. Biden.

None of the nearly two dozen former aides The Times interviewedremembered seeing Mr. Biden touch Ms. Reade.

By her account, her problems came to a head with her refusal to serve drinks at a reception. A few days later, she said, Mr. Biden’s office manager, Marianne Baker, admonished her to dress more modestly — what Ms. Reade has described as one step in a campaign of retaliation.

Then, she says, when she met Mr. Biden in an empty Senate hallway to deliver his gym bag, he pushed her up against a wall, reached his hand underneath her skirt and penetrated her digitally.

Ms. Reade says she filed a harassment complaint to a Senate personnel office. She does not recall the date or the aide to whom she filed the complaint. . . .

She says she was removed, that April, from her position supervising the interns — which two of them recall — and her desk was moved to a windowless office.

Mr. Biden’s senior aides, Ted Kaufman and Dennis Toner, later gave her a month to find a new position, she says. Both men, as well as Ms. Baker, say they do not recall Ms. Reade or her charges against Mr. Biden. . . .

[The Times story then reports in detail on Ms. Reade’s life after leaving her Senate job and heading west where her life took many strange turns.]

Ms. Reade was work-shopping the book in a writing group that included Don Rogers, the publisher of the local newspaper, The Union. After Lucy Flores, a former Nevada politician, published an essay recounting an uncomfortable encounter with Mr. Biden — he squeezed her shoulders and kissed the back of her head during an event, she wrote — Ms. Reade informed Mr. Rogers she had her own story to share.

That story, she told The Union, was about “power and control” in an abusive workplace. . . .

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