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New Reporting Increases Doubts on Tara Reade’s Allegation Against Joe Biden

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15.05.2020

When Tara Reade first made her assault allegation against Joe Biden, I thought the charge was more likely to be true than false. To be clear, I had no intention of changing my vote. The allegation came too late to reopen the nominating process without doing violence to the expressed will of the electorate. And I’ve always believed the primary criteria for voting on a candidate is their policy impact (which is why I wrote a column in 2018 defending Republicans who still supported Roy Moore over Doug Jones). But I did feel bad about voting for a candidate I suspected had done something terrible.

Since then, however, two long, detailed reports — by Vox’s Laura McGann, and by PBS NewsHour — have delved into Reade’s allegations. Neither reaches a definitive conclusion. But both of them on balance add a lot of grounds for skepticism. At this point, Reade’s allegation seems to me to be more likely to be false than true.

McGann’s story recounts her yearlong effort to report on and corroborate Reade’s claims. The main problem she describes is that Reade dramatically changed her allegation. Reporters knew that Reade had previously described a culture of harassment without sexual assault, and then, in March, suddenly added a specific account of sexual assault. This didn’t prove her account was false: Sometimes survivors of sexual assault unroll elements of the offense over time. But McGann, by revisiting the two accounts and trying to understand the reason Reade changed them, zeroes in on two specific problems.

1. Reade’s account of why she changed her story seems not to be true. McGann describes her lengthy, and sympathetic, efforts to prove out Reade’s charge of sexual harassment. She was surprised when Reade claimed she had decided not to share the full story because reporters were shutting her down:

In a recent conversation, I asked Reade why she would say the media was shutting her down when she was initially so adamant with me (and other outlets) that this wasn’t a misconduct story. The........

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