Political pundits will “grade” former vice president Joe Biden’s response to Tara Reade’s allegation that he digitally penetrated her more than 25 years ago. The campaign’s written statement was empathetic and respectful but definitive. Biden sat for a tough interview Friday without losing his cool. He was not angry or accusatory; he did not claim a conspiracy nor insult the accuser. He volunteered to open Senate papers (which he said are at the National Archives, not at the University of Delaware). In short, he did what an innocent person would do and say.

The lines “If you believe Christine Blasey Ford, you have to believe Reade” or “You didn’t believe President Trump, so you cannot believe Biden” (or other variations) are the worst examples of mindless “balance” and faux objectivity. It takes a minute to identify fundamental differences between situations that bear little resemblance to one another.

Trump never sat for a grueling interview to go through the facts of more than a dozen claims against him. Biden sat for an interrogation of a single claim of sexual assault. (And no, his penchant to ignore personal space and excessive hugginess were not sexual, although they were inappropriate.)

Unlike Republicans and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who refused to allow a full investigation of charges, Biden has put no restrictions on media inquiries and has offered up relevant documents. (Republicans also refused to open up all documents relevant to Kavanaugh’s past White House work having nothing to do with Ford’s allegation.)

And let’s get real: Reade and Ford are not similar accusers. Ford’s story was consistent for years. Reade’s has not been. Ford did not claim to have complained contemporaneously; Reade did and was rebutted by Biden staff to whom she would have complained. In Kavanaugh’s case, there was another witness to an alleged, separate incident of sexual misconduct at Yale University involving Kavanaugh. In Reade’s case, no one else has accused Biden of anything like Reade’s claim.

Biden’s statements in writing and in the interview are hard to dispute: Women should be heard and believed, but facts and the truth matter like in every other crime. (In his written statement enumerating the fundamental concerns in these cases, Biden said, “One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.”) If a witness changes her story (“Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways”), her credibility is seriously compromised.

Several points deserve emphasis.

First, the media do not question Trump about the serial allegations against him at his endless daily appearances. They’ve shrugged their shoulders and given up trying to pin him down on the numerous complaints of harassment and/or assault. They should continue to scrutinize his claims and ask questions whether he answers or not.

Second, people are entitled to believe Reade despite her inconsistencies, the denials from Biden and his staff and the (so far) dearth of written evidence of her complaint. The question is whether the American people decide the evidence is credible. Unless more evidence surfaces, I would wager they do not.

Third, Democrats perpetually worried that the Biden team is “blowing it” (Biden is hidden away! Not in the news!) might want to chill. This was a textbook example of effective campaign communication. The candidate is leading in the polls, and Trump is melting down (in the latest ABC/Ipsos poll, “his disapproval rating among Americans reached a numeric high of 57%, with only 42% approving.”) Maybe these people do know what they are doing.

By trying to reassign seats in the White House briefing room, the Trump administration is attempting to stifle real journalism, says media critic Erik Wemple. (The Washington Post)

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