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29 Apr, 2020 19:17

‘We never said it didn’t happen’: New York Times says its probe didn’t absolve Biden of sexual assault claims

‘We never said it didn’t happen’: New York Times says its probe didn’t absolve Biden of sexual assault claims

Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s campaign says the sexual assault claim against him was disproven by a New York Times probe. Originally criticized for going too soft on Biden, the Times now says it never wrote off the allegation.

Tara Reade, who worked for Biden’s Senate office in 1993, claims that Biden cornered her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building and forced himself on her, penetrating her with his fingers against her will. Biden’s campaign has dismissed the allegations, and has circulated the talking points it’s using to counter them.

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Those talking points, revealed by Buzzfeed News on Tuesday, instruct campaign surrogates to refer back to a New York Times article published earlier this month, which the Biden campaign claims “found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden,” and concluded “this incident did not happen.”

These points have been repeated almost verbatim by Biden’s supporters in recent days. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams – angling for a slot as Biden’s running mate – trotted them out in a CNN interview on Tuesday, saying “The New York Times did a deep investigation and they found that the accusation was not credible. I believe Joe Biden.” 

The New York Times, however, says that Biden’s campaign is misrepresenting its article. “Our investigation made no conclusion either way,” the Times’s vice president of communications, Danielle Rhoades-Ha told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. Team Biden’s talking points “inaccurately” suggest that the alleged incident “did not happen,” the statement added.

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The story is not a case of denials from Biden and accusations from the Times. When the Times’s article was first published, it was slated for seemingly going out of its way to cover for the former US vice president. The Biden campaign was given extensive space to deny the accusations, and the paper at one point repeated rumors of President Donald Trump’s own sexual improprieties, claiming they went “far beyond” anything Biden is accused of. It even reminded readers that if Reade’s police report on the incident is found false, she may be punished “by a fine and imprisonment.”

Furthermore, while the paper did say that it “found no pattern of sexual misconduct against Mr. Biden,” that quote initially included an extra clause: “beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.”

This extended sentence – referencing Biden’s well-documented fondness for sniffing, groping, and grabbing women and children – was seemingly deleted at the request of the Biden campaign, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said after the change was made.

The Times’s writers contacted some of Reade’s former Senate colleagues, who said they didn’t remember her mentioning the Biden encounter in 1993. Others, including Reade’s brother and two friends, said they do recall her mentioning what Rhoades-Ha called a “traumatic sexual incident.” Since the Times’s story was published, at least two former associates of Reade have come forward to back up her claims.

With this year’s election drawing ever nearer, Reade’s accusation, contrasted with Biden’s claim that he “has an unmatched record of working for women,” gives his opponents ample ammunition to attack him with. “Yikes!” President Trump’s son, Donald Junior, tweeted on Wednesday, “Not good news for Beijing Biden.”

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