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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Teszler: Believing Tara Reade

We have an obligation to the truth, even though it’s painful.

In March, when Tara Reade first came forward with her allegation of sexual assault against former Vice President Joe Biden, I did not pay much attention. In light of recent corroborative evidence, however, it has become clear that dismissing Reade’s allegations was a major mistake. Her accusations are grave and credible. Democrats cannot shy away from the possibility Biden committed a terrible act of violence.

Reade has alleged that in 1993, Joe Biden pressed her against a wall, kissed her neck and penetrated her with his fingers. In late March, she shared these allegations with left-wing journalists Ryan Grim and Katie Halper. By this point, it was clear that Biden would be the Democratic nominee — there was a strong push to rally around his candidacy, even from those like myself who hadn’t supported him when the race was still competitive. Despite my disagreements with some of his positions, I found Biden to be a personally decent and trustworthy man. I dismissed Reade’s allegations out-of-hand.

Yet the end of the primary did not make Reade go away, and her story has actually strengthened. On April 24, a tape surfaced of a woman who appears to be Reade’s mother calling into a 1993 episode of “Larry King Live” to describe her daughter’s unspecified complaint about a senator. Moreover, a former neighbor of Reade’s went on record to say that Reade had told her details of the story in the 1990s, and a former coworker from a subsequent job said that Reade had spoken of sexual harassment by a former boss in Washington, D.C. Reade’s brother and a close friend have also said that Reade discussed the assault with them soon after it allegedly happened, and interns remember Reade abruptly leaving her job — though none recounted hearing of sexual assault or harrassment allegations.

Nobody should ever have to endure the violence that Reade alleges, and nobody wants the presidential nominee of their party to have committed assault. But the truth must sometimes be inconvenient, difficult and painful.

While these details do not guarantee Reade’s allegations are true, I do believe the growing number of corroborations have proven Reade’s claims to be more likely true than not. I hoped my fellow Democrats would similarly evaluate the evidence and acknowledge that there is a non-trivial chance Biden committed assault.

Instead, many liberals on social media have employed truly despicable tactics to not only discredit Reade’s story, but to slander her personally. These range from questions of why she did not come forward earlier to  suggestions of her being in cahoots with Russia and Vladimir Putin stemming from a number of pro-Putin blog posts made by Reade. Reade’s political alignment aside, the argument of Russian conspiracy seems far-fetched and would require a wide net of U.S. citizens to be working on Russia’s behalf, including Reade’s brother, former neighbors and former colleague. 

Reade’s doubters have also accused her of changing her story and have suggested that the timing of her accusations — just as the presidential race has narrowed to Biden versus Donald Trump — is suspicious. But the ways Reade has “changed” her account are entirely consistent with a person slowly becoming ready to tell her full story. In 2019 — along with eight other women — Reade accused Biden of uncomfortable touching that didn’t rise to the level of assault. This has led to speculation that her more serious allegations are made-up, concocted to derail Biden at the last minute. But critically, at the time that she made her initial allegations — in April 2019 — she acknowledged, “I did not even tell the whole story.”

Many have since asked why Reade simply did not come forward with the full story the first time. But this question makes little sense given the legacy of the #MeToo movement. As a country, #MeToo has forced us to confront the fact it is difficult to come forward with assault claims against powerful people. “Why not earlier” is a question that can be employed against nearly anyone who comes forward. In Reade’s case, however, she provides specific reasons for her timing. She acknowledges that her feelings about Biden have been complicated, especially in light of Biden’s legislative track record, explaining, “It’s like cognitive dissonance almost. This person did this to me, but yet he did good things.” When Biden was picked as the vice presidential nominee in 2008, she didn’t want to damage Barack Obama, whom she supported. 

Biden has strongly denied Reade’s allegations. Yet with an increasing number of people coming forward to support Reade’s story, I believe her claims seem more credible.

So what happens now? Some have responded that Trump has done much worse, which I agree with — but that in no way eliminates the need to take Reade seriously. Others have pointed out that replacing Biden would be undemocratic and damaging to the party. I have no easy solution — I’m not sure anyone does. Yet it is our responsibility to bear witness to the truth, no matter how tough the position it puts us in. Tara Reade’s allegations look like the truth. It’s our choice what to do with it.