Image Credits: AP Photo/Donald Thompson.
It’s interesting to see how thorough the PBS Newshour reporters were in trying to assess Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden. They identified and “tried to contact nearly 200 former staffers.” They ultimately interviewed 74 people, including 62 women, who worked for Biden over the years. Some were mere interns, others system administrators, and some were senior aides. Their experience spanned from his first run for Senate in 1972 all the way to his time as vice-president. Twenty of them worked for Biden in the early 1990’s, at the same time as Reade. No one corroborated her primary accusation or offered anything that could reasonably be described as supporting information.
The interviews revealed previously unreported details about the Biden office when Reade worked there, such as an account that she lost her job because of her poor performance, not as retaliation for lodging complaints about sexual harassment, as Reade has said.
Other recollections from former staffers corroborated things she has described publicly, such as Biden’s use of the Senate gym and a supervisor admonishing her for dressing inappropriately.
Overall, the people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.
By the very nature of the allegations, it’s impossible for Biden to disprove. Her story can be checked for consistency and plausibility, however, and obviously it would be buttressed if it were echoed by other people who worked in the office at the time or it appeared like a recognizable pattern of behavior. That’s why it’s relevant to talk to people from every period of Biden’s career even they obviously have no knowledge of Reade.
It’s true that most people who have worked for Biden have little to no incentive to lend support to Reade, but when 200 people are contacted, you’d think at least a couple would be disgruntled or perhaps ex-Democrats who want Biden to lose in November. If he created a hostile workplace for women, the likelihood of this would be even higher.
None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade.
One thing that is striking about these results is that it’s well known that Biden is a very grabby kind of guy. He hasn’t exactly asked permission to put his hands on women, and this habit is well-documented in video footage over the years. He has publicly acknowledged that he’s behaved inappropriately in this respect and apologized for it.
“Social norms are changing,” he wrote. “I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”
It’s certain that Biden has made women on his staff uncomfortable at times throughout his whole career, so we might expect that some interpreted it as sexual harassment. Yet, none did. Instead, they said this:
Female staffers who spent countless hours with Biden, including in one-on-one settings, like his small private office in the U.S. Capitol, known as a “hideaway,” said he never made passes at them or behaved in other ways that suggested sexual impropriety.
The takeaway is that Biden did not exhibit a pattern of behavior that supports Reade’s allegations. If her charges are true, it represented an aberration.
The second purpose of the interviews was to establish if the details of her story are consistent and plausible. In other words, setting aside what Biden might have done, could it have happened in the way she described? The responses raised serious doubts about this.
Reade’s attorney told the NewsHour that Reade recalls the assault happening “in a semiprivate area like an alcove” and that it was “somewhere between the Russell (building) and/or Capitol building.” He pointed out that survivors often have difficulty with specifics about trauma.
Numerous staffers have offered public skepticism that an assault could have taken place in the area between Biden’s offices in the Russell building and the Capitol. This is what PBS Newshour discovered, too.
Reade’s description aligns with other staffers’ recollections of Biden’s short indoor route between his office and the Capitol. It is a roughly 10-minute walk that consists of one flight of stairs and one long hallway inside the Russell Building, followed by a wide tunnel through which he could walk or take an internal subway train to the Capitol.
The layout of that route and building has not changed. A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.
Some former staffers told the NewsHour that if Biden did assault Reade in any of these places, it would have been a brazen attack in an area with a high risk of being seen.
We’re talking about something that is alleged to have happened almost 30 years ago, so all appropriate caveats apply. Reporters can only do so much to investigate the charges. In this case, they cast the widest possible net to find any possible corroboration. They investigated the supposed crime scene. Nothing they discovered adds credence to Reade’s story.
They did find someone who said she was fired for cause, and others who said she was justifiably reprimanded for dressing inappropriately, which is at odds with her story. She said she was ordered to serve drinks at a reception, and this was directly contradicted by veterans of Biden’s staff who said he always asked men to perform that task. She said this occurred at a fundraiser, but the general consensus was that staffers were consistently banned from attending fundraisers or doing campaign work.
There are many other questionable things about Reade’s past that I could mention, but my interest isn’t in trashing the alleged victim. I just want to highlight that some laudable reporting occurred here, and what they found should help put people’s minds at ease about the possibility that Biden is some kind of sexual predator like the current occupant of the White House.