The lesson of ‘believing all women’

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Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington. Early polling in the general election face-off between Trump and Biden bears out a gap between the two contenders when it comes to who Americans see as more compassionate to their concerns.  Photo by AP , File

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington. Early polling in the general election face-off between Trump and Biden bears out a gap between the two contenders when it comes to who Americans see as more compassionate to their concerns. Photo by AP , File

Three weeks ago, former Vice President Joe Biden was accused by a former congressional staffer of sexually assaulting her in 1993. The alleged victim, Tara Reade, is also one of the women who last year accused Biden of inappropriate touching. Given the many accusations of sexual harassment dogging Biden, it would’ve been fair to suspect that something like this might happen as he ascended closer to the presidency, and as well – given the recent Democratic tact – to anticipate the ensuing political response.

Let’s begin with the media coverage of a Democratic scandal versus that of a Republican. With Sen. Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race and Biden having now secured endorsements from Sanders and former President Barack Obama, his campaign is the final hope. The Times reacted accordingly, burying the story for weeks and then reluctantly offering a milquetoast analysis intended to carve out reasonable doubt for its future presidential endorsee. The article, entitled “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden,” noted that no “former Biden staff members corroborate[ed] any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation” and concluded that – in spite of a bevy of past sexual harassment allegations – “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.” Executive Editor Dean Baquet attempted to justify the selection bias by claiming that the allegation against Biden, unlike with Brett Kavanaugh, was not “a live, ongoing story.”

When Justice Kavanaugh was accused in 2018, the Times reported swiftly and with confidence, noting that the accusation coincided nicely with Senate Democrats raising questions about his “truthfulness.” This was no tentative examination, either. It was cold, hard news: “Kavanaugh’s Nomination in Turmoil as Accuser Says He Assaulted Her Decades Ago.” It didn’t matter that his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, couldn’t provide evidence or corroborating witnesses, the allegation was available and the Left needed ammunition against Trump’s nominee.

This is nothing new, though. The media routinely take a different tact when dirt threatens their political favorites. Democrats, as well. But the leaders of the #MeToo movement? After having declared that Kavanaugh apologists were “telling every generation of Americans that an alleged abuser’s career is more valuable than a survivor’s humanity,” actress Alyssa Milano – and ardent Biden supporter – last week proclaimed that believing all women “does not mean at the expense of not giving men their due process and investigating situations.”

Here’s the dirty little secret: Political consequences are only for those not promising political results. If you’re an apparatchik in the Democratic coalition, representing its interests in Washington, then your moral failings can be overlooked when considering your record of party service. Besides, what good comes from taking down a political ally? These are the politicians who will believe any women always so long as they aren’t the ones being accused.

This is the perverse thinking of political strategists using grave allegations for political gain.

As Milano has learned, the mantra of believing all women is more challenging when one accuses your only hope of removing Trump from office. Then the issue becomes: Is unquestioningly believing all women really the proper thing to do, or do we still believe all women and just expect those accusing political friends to understand that justice for them takes a backseat to political victory? How else might Joe Biden and Bill Clinton avoid the same ire directed at Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby?

Ultimately, several things can be true at once. Allegations of sexual assault are serious and should be investigated thoroughly. Also, the accused are presumed innocent and deserving of due process, regardless of their political affiliation or value.

While it was politically expedient for Biden to align himself with this particular sect of the Left early in his campaign – expressing solidarity with accusers and apologizing for questioning Anita Hill as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – he now has to defend himself and, in doing so, risk engaging in “victim blaming.”

Unthinking fidelity to accusers for the sake of extreme solidarity with alleged victims is one thing. But the reason that you don’t believe all women for political gain is because this sets a precedent to follow even when it doesn’t suit you politically. And if the goal is political gain, then it serves no purpose to adhere to your own standard – which is exactly what we’re seeing.

Believing all women is a dangerous game. As John F. Kennedy said in a different context, “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Perhaps Biden and his political allies are learning a useful lesson.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.

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Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.catapano@uconn.edu.

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