Uncle Joe has just completed what he hopes will be the beginning of the end of his Tara Reade nightmare. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski interviewed him on May 1st on Morning Joe. Reade is the former Biden Senate staff member who has alleged he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. Brzezinski aggressively questioned Biden, both on the alleged incident and on whether documents related to it are being covered up.
The interview should have been flagged for unnecessary roughness. Mika, a self-styled champion of women’s rights, grilled Biden as on why Reade should not be believed, why he is not opening all his Senate records, and why he thinks Reade is making the allegations. Biden responded with a complete denial. “It never happened,” the former Vice President stated.
Biden understandably struggled with the question of why Reade should not be assumed to be telling the truth. How do you respond to this type of allegation, assuming it is not true? Mika accused him of adopting a double standard. Given Biden’s position on the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the subject was fair game.
Biden responded that Reade has the right to be heard, but that if the allegations are not supported with evidence, his denial should be accepted. Agreed. Brzezinski also urged Biden to fully open his archived Senate records, now in the custody of the University of Delaware. Biden repeatedly stated that the records do not include any personnel records. Thus, any record of a complaint against him by Ms. Reade would not be in the records. Good point.
He also responded that he sealed the records because, as an active candidate for office, the records would be used as “fodder” by political opponents to accuse him of flip-flopping on issues. Biden’s rationale is fully credible, especially given his 2020 opponent.
In the face of Brzezinski’s overly aggressive questioning, Biden demonstrated composure that can be described as Presidential (at least as pre-Trump Presidential composure). He was visibly unhappy with Mika, but never accused her of being unfair and avoided the trap of speculating why Ms. Reade would lie. His composure will prove to be a plus to those Biden supporters anxious about how this crisis will be resolved. Whether his answers will resolve the matter, however, is less certain. Likely, this story will persist for a while. Ms. Reade is expected to elaborate on her allegations in coming days. No doubt additional rebuttals will be necessary.
Vice President Biden is suggesting that any record of a complaint against him would be in the records of the National Archives. He has asked the Secretary of the Senate to request any such records and release them. This is all well and good, but if no record is found, it does not end the matter. No doubt there will be speculation as to whether such a record was destroyed or otherwise covered-up.
It is difficult not to feel sympathy with Biden if one assumes he is the victim of a serious false allegation. Current evidence, as of this writing, suggests that the allegation is false. It is too early, however, to close this matter. Reade, who has changed her story over the years, appears a bit quirky, to put it mildly. Her admiration for Vladimir Putin (since disavowed), is just one example. Despite this, the jury is still out. Stay tuned. We have not heard the last word on this nasty episode.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.