Columns, Opinion

2020 Breakdown: Dear mainstream media, are you playing favorites?

This article contains depictions of sexual violence.

If you were asked “Who is Tara Reade?” three weeks ago, would you have known? Probably not. 

By their reporting — or lack thereof — it seemed the major players in the mainstream news media didn’t know Reade either. Expect for the inconvenient fact that they did.

Last spring, Reade was one of eight women to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriate conduct. Reade, a staffer for then-Senator Biden in 1993, accused him of “put[ing] his hand on my shoulder and run[ing] his finger up my neck.” 

These allegations of misconduct gained some traction with a number of mainstream outlets. The Associated Press, The Washington Post and others reported on these claims as they surfaced in 2019. 

Considering the fact that many outlets reported on these initial claims, it’s certainly curious that when Reade recently expanded upon her experience with Biden, there were essentially cricket sounds coming from the mainstream press. 

In an interview on “The Katie Halper Show” podcast on March 25, Reade revealed that there was more to her claims against Biden, and more information she previously left out because she felt vulnerable after receiving online backlash and accusations of being a Russian asset.

Reade, expanding upon her previous claims, alleges Biden pinned her against a wall and sexually assaulted her after she went to deliver him his gym bag in 1993. 

“There was no exchange, really. It happened all at once … His hands were on me and underneath my clothes,” Reade told Halper, audibly distraught. “And then he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers.”

As with most claims of this nature, there were no witnesses to the crime Reade alleges. However, Reade confided in her mother, brother and a friend about the assault around the time of its occurrence. Both her brother and friend confirm Reade contemporaneously told them about the assault and her mother has since passed.

With such heavy charges against a man running to ultimately become the next president of the United States, one would think every news outlet around would be tripping over themselves to report such an important story. Alas, it took mainstream media outlets not one week, not two weeks, but nearly three weeks to report Reade’s claims. 

It begs the question, if these outlets knew who Reade was and had spoken to her in the past, why wait such a long time by news standards to report her allegations?

After all, the media was incredibly quick to report on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual assault against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in late 2018. And even quicker to report on the accusations against President Donald Trump throughout his tenure. 

Dear mainstream media, are you playing favorites? 

Let’s be clear. The media was absolutely right to report and verify the allegations against Kavanaugh and Trump and anyone else accused of raping and assaulting innocent women. 

The problem, here, is that the mainstream media seems to have a way of prioritizing certain victims over others. Ford’s allegations instantaneously dominated the headlines for weeks, but what about Reade?

Reade’s allegations have barely made a dent in the news cycle and even the Time’s Up organization, formed to aid women in this kind of situation, wouldn’t help her. Time’s Up reportedly turned Reade away, not for a lack of evidence, but because she was accusing a public official, something that could impact the nonprofit’s tax-exempt status.

Once Reade was finally able to come forward with her full story, it took 19 days for the mainstream media to report on it. And when they did, they made it very clear whose side they were really on.

In its article entitled “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden,” The New York Times reported they “found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” The Times later deleted that portion of the paragraph, admittedly at the request of the Biden campaign.

Did they delete or edit any portion of their story at Reade’s request? No, I didn’t think so. 

If that sly edit doesn’t convince you of favorable bias towards the Biden camp, just take a look at the article’s subheading.

“Ms. Reade, a former Senate aide, has accused Mr. Biden of assaulting her in 1993 and says she told others about it. A Biden spokeswoman said the allegation is false, and former Senate office staff members do not recall such an incident,” it reads. 

Why would former staff members recall an incident they were never party to or never told about? Reade never claimed to tell those specific staffers about the incident and she admits there were no eyewitnesses to the assault. So why include this information — information that proves absolutely nothing — in the subheading, if not to undermine Reade’s story from the get-go?

The timing of the article’s publication remains the most suspicious indicator of favoritism, though. Not only did it take The Times 19 days to report Reade’s story, but they published it on Easter Sunday, just after Biden’s only remaining opponent for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race.

Though The Times has since attempted to explain away many of the critiques raised about its initial report, it is not the only major mainstream outlet to botch its reporting of Reade’s allegations.

The Washington Post, NBC News and other outlets all interestingly waited to publish their pieces late on Easter Sunday as well, a holiday when many readers were sure not to be paying attention.

So what’s the takeaway? 

It’s certainly not to write these outlets off as “fake news” like some Trump-lovers do. Rather, the takeaway should be to be cautious of everything in front you. Do your research, diversify your sources and pay attention. The mainstream media isn’t always the referee in politics and power, sometimes it’s just another player in the game.

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