The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ryan Grim helped push the Tara Reade story into the mainstream. What does he think of it now?

Left: journalist Ryan Grim. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for The Young Turks) Right: former Biden staffer Tara Reade. (Donald Thompson/AP)

The past few weeks haven’t been kind to Tara Reade, the woman who has accused former vice president Joe Biden of sexual assault. Several of Reade’s former landlords and acquaintances say she manipulated and deceived them. Lawyers say she inflated her résumé as a prosecution witness in several criminal cases, and a district attorney in California is investigating whether she perjured herself. Her attorney quit on her after just two weeks.

Ryan Grim is unmoved.

Grim — a journalist whose work has given prominence and credence to Reade’s allegations, which Biden has firmly denied — thinks the latest revelations don’t really change the story’s basic contours.

“It’s messy and getting messier,” he said last week. Those “who don’t believe her, or don’t want to believe her, have plenty to cling to. People who do believe her, or who want to believe her, do as well, though many people in the middle have shifted to the doubtful camp as more questions have arisen.”

Tara Reade has alleged that former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. (Video: The Washington Post)

Amid the dust cloud of allegations and denials, Grim has become a controversial figure — at least among warring factions of Democrats.

As Washington bureau chief of the Intercept, he was among the first journalists to showcase Reade’s latest allegations of abusive treatment when she worked in Biden’s office. And when, shortly thereafter, she alleged on a podcast that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993, Grim was noisy in his efforts to call attention to the story — both on Twitter, where he has more than 150,000 followers, and in interviews discussing each twist and turn.

New reporting puts focus on Tara Reade’s inconsistencies

He also broke an important piece of the story last month when he uncovered a recording of Reade’s late mother calling in to CNN in 1993 and telling host Larry King about unspecified “problems” her daughter had working for “a prominent senator.” The call “isn’t conclusive, but it buttresses [Reade’s] credibility,” Grim said in a webcast interview. “It adds to the pile of evidence” supporting Reade, who had previously said she told her mother about the alleged assault when it happened.

Biden has categorically denied Reade’s allegations, which have morphed since last year from an accusation of inappropriate touching to her claim of assault in a Senate corridor. His Senate staff has said it has no record of complaints from Reade, who briefly worked in Biden’s office in the early 1990s. News organizations, including The Washington Post, have been unable to corroborate some of the details of Reade’s account.

Biden partisans have accused Grim and the Intercept of promoting the story to boost Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden’s last rival for the Democratic nomination, who remained in the race until mid-April and would be the likeliest benched candidate to see his hopes resurrected if Biden dropped out. (Biden’s campaign representatives declined to comment.)

Critics note that the Intercept — co-founded in 2014 by Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar — is known for taking whacks at the Democratic establishment and championing the party’s insurgent wing.

One prominent Biden supporter even called for the FBI to investigate Grim and other journalists for their role in the Reade story, though the Biden campaign disavowed any such idea.

Grim has been attacked by Neera Tanden, a former Obama administration official who is the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. “We’ve had story after story that demonstrates massive inconsistencies at best and lies at worst by Reade. And silence by @ryangrim, who pushed this story online for weeks,” she tweeted May 21. Tanden went on to accuse him of being among a group of journalists “who spend years pushing a certain candidate, he loses the primary, and then those journalists push stories to torpedo the candidate who won.”

Grim fired back by calling Tanden “delusional” and defending his coverage of the primaries — maintaining that, far from seeing him as an ally, Sanders supporters have attacked him for his tough reporting on their candidate.

The Twitter tit-for-tat became so heated that Grim later tweeted that he and Tanden had agreed to delete some of their exchange to “lower the temperature,” as Grim put it.

Grim’s vilification by some Democrats is a reversal from the nearly heroic status they conferred on him for his 2018 reporting on Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.

Grim’s star rose when he broke the news of Blasey Ford’s then-anonymous allegations, contained in an unreleased letter held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The story set in motion the drama of Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearings.

Grim helped break stories about spousal-abuse allegations against former Trump White House aide Rob Porter. He was also among the first national reporters to call attention to the surprising strength of future Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 primary challenge to 10-term New York congressman Joseph Crowley.

His pugnacious style was literally on display in 2016 when he got into a scuffle with Fox News host Jesse Watters at a party following the White House correspondents' dinner. (Grim worked for HuffPost at the time.) Another Grim throwdown — this one a war of words with polling analyst Nate Silver shortly before the 2016 election, in which Grim excoriated Silver for assumptions in his statistical model that suggested Donald Trump had an actual shot at winning — didn’t end so well for Grim.

Tara Reade’s big on-camera interview wasn’t on Fox News or CNN. It was on Megyn Kelly’s YouTube channel.

In interviews via email, Grim addressed many of the criticisms hurled his way on the Reade story. He seemed eager not to pick any new fights.

Reade herself has said Grim contacted her in March and that she told him “the whole story” of the alleged assault. Grim confirms this but said he didn’t have time to substantiate her allegations, so he instead focused his story on the advocacy group Time’s Up’s refusal to get involved in an unspecified harassment complaint of hers against Biden. Days later, Reade went on a podcast hosted by Katie Halper and made her full assault accusations public for the first time.

Grim said he’d never met or spoken with Reade when she sent him a tweet on March 3 that critics have cited as evidence of a supposed conspiracy to undermine Biden.

After Grim opined that a Biden vs. Sanders matchup would favor Sanders, Reade tweet-replied, “Yup. Timing. . . wait for it. . . .tic toc.” Grim said he was unaware of her comment until he began getting criticism for it after his first story on Reade was published a few weeks later.

“I can understand why people would see that ‘tic toc’ tweet and believe that there was some collusion around a well-timed hit,” he said. “All I can do is respond with the facts: We [hadn’t spoken] at the time, so even if I would have seen that reply, I’d have no clue what it was in reference to.”

Grim believes the anger directed at him is a reflection of the tensions within the party during the primaries. “Many people believed that supporters of Sanders were cynically weaponizing [Reade’s allegations] to undermine Biden, while many Sanders supporters thought that Biden backers were acting like hypocrites” for not being more supportive of a woman alleging sexual assault, he said.

As for the doubts raised about Reade’s credibility, Grim suggests that’s somewhat beside the point.

“The question is whether the discrediting information [about Reade] disqualifies her from making her allegations publicly,” he said. “Given that multiple people say she’s been telling this story for 25-plus years, I don’t think she’s disqualified. . . . Biden’s campaign was right to say, ‘Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims.’ ”

But given all the discrediting information, does he believe Tara Reade?

“That’s the wrong question to ask,” he replied. “The question for the media should be, do you believe she has a right to be heard? I think we in the media should continue to report out her story. Our job is to put the evidence in the public domain and let the public decide what to do with it.”

Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.