Joe Biden on Friday strongly denied allegations of sexual assault lodged against him by former aide Tara Reade, first in a statement at Medium and later in a TV interview. A sample of coverage and reaction:
- Summing up: Here is how the main story in the New York Times characterized things: "The weeks of indecision about how to respond publicly to Ms. Reade highlighted, in part, the former vice president’s great reliance on female voters as a political base that he cannot afford to alienate, and the determination of Democrats to champion a zero-tolerance standard for abuse of women. Mr. Biden, in arguing that victims should be heard while trying to defend himself, also further sharpened the already stark distinctions between the pressures facing him and the president on matters of gender and sex."
- Only step one: At USA Today, Susan Page writes that Biden's denial was strong, "but a negative can be hard to prove, and the residue of an accusation can prove stubborn. Remember Barack Obama's birth certificate? Hillary Clinton's emails?" Biden is trying to learn the lesson of Clinton and put this behind him early with a direct refutation. "That said, the first interview that Biden did about this issue isn't likely to be the last. Tara Reade may make sure of that. So will the Republicans."
- The records: Biden said the National Archives should release any complaints made by Reade about him to the Senate's HR office. "But that makes one thing all the more perplexing: the way Biden dodged co-host Mika Brzezinski’s repeated questions about the records of his Senate years that are under seal at the University of Delaware," writes Karen Tumulty at the Washington Post. "Why, she asked him again and again, does he not open those archives to scrutiny?" Biden maintains that those files don't include personnel records. They may indeed be irrelevant, notes Tumulty. "But the best way to remove a shadow of doubt is to open a window and let the light in."
- Fine line: When Brzezinksi grilled Biden on his previous statements about the importance of believing female accusers, he said: "Women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt. If they come forward and say something happened to them, they should start with the presumption they are telling the truth. Then you have to look at the facts." In which case, Biden's stance puzzles Robby Soave at Reason. "If the former vice president is taking the position that women should be believed unless their accusations are disproven, then the burden of evidence is on the accused," he writes. "No evidence has emerged that explicitly contradicts Reade's story. Does that mean the public should default to believing her?"
- Time will tell: "It remains to be seen if Biden’s remarks Friday will put the matter to rest," writes Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair. While "he strongly denied the claims, his exchange with Brzezinski also grew heated at times as the MSNBC host questioned him about opening up his archives at the University of Delaware, which he says would not contain personnel files. 'This never happened,' Biden said. 'It’s as simple as that.'"
- Criticism of MSNBC: At the Federalist, Kylee Zempel writes that the network spent about 4 minutes detailing the Biden accusations before the interview and roughly the same amount of time going over accusations against President Trump. "The network’s spotlight shift onto Trump ... follows a trend among media elites to distract from allegations against the presumed Democratic nominee with Trump 'whataboutism.'"
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