Sunday, May 17, 2020

PBSNewsHour interviewed dozens of Biden staffers about Tara Reade. Here is some of what they found.

What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations In the main, the allegations don’t jive with what the staffers recall.

Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former Vice President Joe Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office.

He was not on a list of “creepy” male senators that female staffers told each other to avoid in the elevators on Capitol Hill.

Yet Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. That behavior has persisted in recent years. Biden is now facing fresh scrutiny after a former aide in March charged that he sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s, an allegation Biden has categorically denied.

The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade. Former staffers said they believed Reade should be heard, and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation.

But lots of what came out in the PBS interviews are not consistent with the allegations. Here is an example.

Biden’s Senate offices were in a prime location, bookending the second floor of the Russell Senate Office building, the closest to the U.S. Capitol.

No alcoves there
No alcoves here

Reade’s attorney told the NewsHour that Reade recalls the assault happening “in a semiprivate area like an alcove” and that it was “somewhere between the Russell (building) and/or Capitol building.” He pointed out that survivors often have difficulty with specifics about trauma.

Reade’s description aligns with other staffers’ recollections of Biden’s short indoor route between his office and the Capitol. It is a roughly 10-minute walk that consists of one flight of stairs and one long hallway inside the Russell Building, followed by a wide tunnel through which he could walk or take an internal subway train to the Capitol.

The layout of that route and building has not changed. A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.

“When I worked in the Senate, it was always crowded [and] packed with lobbyists, staff and tourists,” said Sheila Nix, who was Biden’s chief of staff on the 2012 presidential campaign and previously worked as chief of staff to two other Democratic senators.

I remain deeply concerned about what Reade is doing and why. See the PBS report for more reasons for concern, how her story has changed over time, for example.

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