Jacobin - April 30, 2020

After being studiously ignored for weeks, Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is finally breaking through in earnest into mainstream news coverage. On cable news, her accusation got one of its most extended and sympathetic airings last night thanks to MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes’s brave decision to cover it.

“There have been moments I think for many of us, all of us, where we have heard about accusations against someone that we find ourselves desperately wanting not to believe,” he said, opening the segment.

But part of the difficult lesson of the MeToo era is not that every accusation is true and everything should be believed on its face, but that you do have to fight yourself when you feel that impulse. You have to do that in order to take seriously what is being alleged and what the evidence is and to evaluate it. And that is the case with the accusation by a woman named Tara Reade against Joe Biden.

Hayes’s treatment wasn’t exhaustive. He left out that two people close to Reade had told reporters who broke her story that they recalled her telling them about it at the time; he didn’t mention the phone call her mother made to Larry King Live at the time about unnamed problems her daughter was having in a senator’s office; and he mentioned that Reade’s official paper complaint can’t be located, but didn’t explain that one potential location — Biden’s senatorial papers — will be locked to the public for years by the University of Delaware. (The Washington Post and others have called on Biden to release them).

Nonetheless, Hayes informed MSNBC viewers about a pivotal new development in the case: that Reade’s former neighbor, a Biden supporter, has come forward to say Reade told her about the allegation in the mid-1990s.

Hayes invited on journalist Rebecca Traister, the author of an important new piece on what the allegations mean, who affirmed the story’s rising credibility and called on Biden himself to personally address it. And he pushed viewers to move past their own unconscious biases and to take the story seriously. The segment is worth watching — though as MSNBC mystifyingly hasn’t put clips of it up on either its official website or YouTube channel and a transcript isn’t yet available, you’ll have to do so in pieces.

Why was this brave? After all, this is Hayes’s job. And if anything, coverage of Reade is still falling short of the woefully underplayed accusation last year against Trump by columnist E. Jean Carroll, who was quickly personally invited onto MSNBC then CNN in the days after her allegation went public. (At the time, Carroll’s allegation had the same level of corroboration as Reade’s; it now has far less. Reade has only appeared on TV on Hill.TV’s Rising and on Democracy Now!).

MSNBC’s Alternate Universe

The answer lies in the structure of MSNBC, which since Trump’s victory has constructed a ratings-chasing alternative universe for its mostlyolder viewers, where Trump is an unprecedentedly immoral and depraved political actor, the singular cause of everything that ails the United States (typically at the direction of one or another sinister foreign power), and must be vehemently opposed even on the rare occasions his actions line up with those of previous Democratic presidents, or even contradict older stances the network once opposed.

As part of this mission, the network has elevated and protected Biden’s candidacy from criticism since the primary race last year — Hayes’s show being a notable exception — and sold its largely Democratic-voting audience on the idea that he is the safest, least risky choice to go up against Trump. ...
Read full report at Jacobin