I really didn’t want to revisit this issue. But…
I keep seeing headlines like this one from 538.com–“Believe Women or Back the Nominee?” That is an offensive, intellectually dishonest formulation.
It isn’t just 538.com. Pundits on the Left and Right are accusing liberal women who are skeptical of Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden of hypocritical disloyalty to women. Evidently, if you believe the highly credible accusations against Donald Trump, who has been the target of at least 17 complaints of sexual misconduct, but you find the single charge lodged against Biden to be dubious at best, it constitutes prima facia evidence of hypocrisy.
That–to use an inelegant word–is bullshit.
Along with the other inconsistencies and questionable elements of the Tara Reade accusations, there is the undeniable fact that Joe Biden has been repeatedly vetted; most recently when he was under consideration by Obama for Vice President. No investigation has uncovered the slightest hint–let alone an accusation– of sexually inappropriate behavior. (Yes, he’s “handsy”–he likes to hug and touch, and that has made some women uncomfortable, but that is a very different thing.)
In Washington, where there is gossip about everyone, there has never even been any gossip about Biden engaging in inappropriate behavior with women.
Then there is this observation from a commenter to this blog who spent many years in Washington:
I worked in the U.S. Senate in the 60s, and even then, U.S. Senate office building hallways where the abuse was supposed to have happened, are VERY public, well traveled thoroughfares. They have become ever more public over the years. Numerous Senate offices open onto those hallways which are traveled by Capitol Hill police, Senators and staffers, the media, lobbyists, tourists and tour groups, constituents, mail carriers, vendor deliveries, custodians, facilities maintenance personnel, and more. Any Senator wanting to sexually assault someone would do so in their own office (and lock the doors), or a vacant committee room, a storage closet, or a hideaway office to do the deed. The last place they’d pick would be a Senate hallway. This accusation does not have the ring of truth.
Biden has categorically denied the incident ever occurred and has called for a thorough search of Senate archives for the complaint that Reade says she filed. (Her descriptions of the contents of that purported complaint have now changed, too. In contrast to her earlier descriptions of the complaint, she now says it didn’t include any reference to sexual assault.)To date, reporters have been unable to find any record of any complaint.
Given the timing, the multiple inconsistencies– not just in Reade’s account but in the accounts of friends she presumably told (not contemporaneously but a few years after the supposed incident)–and the absence of any remotely similar accusation, it is hardly unreasonable that many women find Reade’s charges unconvincing.
In her daily Letter, Heather Cox Richardson observes that the Trump campaign is using Reade’s story to regain control of the political narrative.
The attempt to get Biden to jump through hoops Trump ignores is classic gaslighting. It keeps Biden on the defensive and makes sure he is reinforcing Trump’s narrative, thus strengthening Trump even as Biden tries to carve out his own campaign. It is precisely what the Trump campaign, abetted by the media, did in 2016.
The pundits and media outlets that are feeding on what several reporters had previously investigated and concluded was a “non-story” are once again allowing themselves to be used. In 2016, it was “her emails.” In 2020 it’s “all women must be uncritically believed.”
Not simply taken seriously, or given the benefit of the doubt, but believed.
Apparently, in order to be “real” feminists, “real” advocates for women, “real” supporters of #MeToo, we must uncritically accept any and all claims made against politicians we admire or support, no matter how dubious. Otherwise, we’re hypocrites.
If I am to be classified as a hypocrite, let me share some admissions-against-interest: I did believe several of the accusations against Bill Clinton but voted for him anyway, because I agreed with most of his policies–just as all those pious “Christians” continue to support Trump despite the porn stars, pussy-grabbing and very credible allegations of rape, because he is “Christianizing” our courts.
I also was–and remain– absolutely enraged by the hubris of the self-appointed, self-aggrandizing “defenders of women” who hounded Al Franken from the Senate. Franken was a longtime, highly effective advocate for women and the behavior he was accused of fell far short of assault.
Bottom line: I simply do not believe that drawing critical distinctions between boorishness and assault, or coming to a negative conclusion about the merits of a suspicious claim makes feminists hypocrites.
Speaking of pots and kettles, real hypocrisy is handing over control of the narrative to a man who lies constantly, refuses to release his tax returns, fires Inspectors General in order to thwart oversight, and makes everyone who works for him sign a non-disclosure-agreement.