Courtesy: Tara Reade
The importance of movements such as Believe Women and #MeToo cannot be understated given "1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime." During the Kavanaugh hearings, Democrats and neoliberal pundits made a point to argue that we ought to believe the testimonies of women that come forward with allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The GOP responded by arguing that the Democrats were merely politicizing the Believe Women and #MeToo movements as a means to smear Kavanaugh and Republicans at the hearings. Regardless of the GOP's moral failures, their criticism of the Democrats was, at least in part, vindicated by the Democratic Party's handling of the recent allegations against Biden. Despite Reade's allegations having been made public in April of 2019, the Democratic Party not only failed to call for a thorough investigation of the allegations, but actively worked to ensure Biden secured the Democratic nomination. While Democrats were right to demand an investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, their response to Reade's sexual assault allegations against Biden reveal the Democrats' hypocrisy: their failure to believe women when it involves a member of their party's ranks.
The failure of the Democratic Party, neoliberal pundits, and most mainstream media organizations to address Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations against Biden are reflective of the neoliberal establishment's increasing ability to provide only lip service to any sort of social or political progress. The Believe Women movement "demand[s] that women's experiences of sexual assault be taken seriously," yet these allegations have been almost entirely ignored or dismissed as untrue by the vast majority of Democrats. Rather than calling for an investigation, as they did with Kavanaugh, the party and its pundits have worked to actively suppress the story; only now that Sanders has suspended his campaign have larger outlets like the New York Times begun to address the allegations.
Courtesy: @jeremyscahill on Twitter
As the story has finally begun to garner some media coverage, the neoliberal narrative and damage control of the story is fully evident in their coverage. In a now deleted tweet, the New York Times stated:
"No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of our reporting, nor did any former Biden staff corroborate Reade's allegation. We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable."
Courtesy: The New Republic
In addition to deleting the tweet, the New York Times has silently revised the article several times to include information that several staffers did in fact corroborate that Reade was demoted and eventually forced out of her job around the time she claims to have reported the assault. The article was also edited hours after publishing to report that several of Reade's friends confirmed that she had discussed the incident with them shortly after it occurred. In spite of this, the narrative on the allegations being pushed by the media, neoliberal pundits, and the Biden campaign is that these allegations are untrue and that there is no evidence of sexual misconduct in Biden's history.
To make matters worse, there has been a demonstrable smear campaign against Reade from liberals including death threats and claims that Reade acts as a Russian agent. The New York Times reported:
"After her initial complaints were reported last year by a local California newspaper, Ms. Reade said she faced a wave of criticism and death threats, as well as accusations that she was a Russian agent because of Medium posts and tweets, several of which are now deleted, she had written praising President Vladimir Putin."
Even in their discussion of this smear campaign, the neoliberal media's efforts to control the narrative and manufacture consent in favor of Biden can be noted; when referring to Reade's Medium posts and tweets on Russia, the Times mentions, "several of which are now deleted," implying there might be some validity to the idea that Reade could be acting on behalf of Russia or Putin to help reelect Trump. (If you're interested in reading more about the corporate media's role in manufacturing consent, check out our Gramsci article on the topic.)
Even after having acknowledged that if the allegations in the complaint filed with the D.C. Police were fabricated, Reade could face criminal charges for filing a false police report, which "may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment," the Times chose to imply the possibility that Reade acted as a Russian agent. Have all notions of journalistic integrity simply ceased to apply to reporters at the Times? In publishing this, the Times acted to recklessly promote the absurd conspiracy theory that Reade potentially fabricated these allegations solely to harm Biden's candidacy. Not only are implications like this extremely dangerous to Reade, but they spit in the face of everything the Believe Women movement stands for…
Regardless of Biden's status as the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, these allegations deserve to be investigated thoroughly, discussed without the presence of political bias, and the neoliberal smear campaign against Reade needs to be immediately silenced. Democrats and neoliberals cannot continue to pretend to embrace movements such as Believe Women and #MeToo when the standards of these movements are not being applied to their presumed nominee, Biden. Reade's allegations against Biden have made the neoliberal double standard self-evident: believe women, but only when it's politically convenient to do so.