A Basic Rule of Journalism (that Benefits Joe Biden)
Editor’s Note: This column updates and expands on a recent edition of Off the Cuff. It includes new information, including a report from the Media Research Center.
It’s a good thing for Joe Biden that he’s not a Republican and that the only news story getting attention is the one about the pandemic — because if Biden were running for president under the GOP banner, and if the virus weren’t the only story on the radar screen, he’d be in real trouble right about now.
A woman named Tara Reade, who worked for then-Sen. Biden in the 1990s, claims he sexually assaulted her in 1993. There were no witnesses, she says, and so she didn’t go public with the accusation — an accusation Biden denies.
I don’t know what happened, or if anything actually did happen. But if we apply the “Believe All Women” standard that liberal and progressive Democrats have been preaching to us for some time now, wouldn’t we have to assume that Joe Biden is guilty?
That doesn’t mean he is, of course. But it does beg a question: Did Democrats really mean it when they told us that we have to believe women who make sexual assault allegations? Or did they mean it’s OK to look the other way at times, depending on who the alleged assailant is?
As for who’s looking the other way, let’s start with journalists. For the record, their indifference to the Biden-Tara Reade story isn’t simply some casual observation on my part. After my Off the Cuff was recorded, a study was published on the television media’s lack of interest in the story -- and its findings are rather compelling.
According to a March 31 report by the Media Research Center (MRC), a conservative organization that monitors what it sees as liberal bias in the media, since the accusations came to light, “ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN haven’t said a single word about them.”
And according to the MRC, since the allegation went public, “CNN, MSNBC and NBC have hosted Biden for a total of three interviews (including an hour-long town hall on CNN), and no host asked even a single question about these new charges.”
Since that report came out, several news outlets — The Economist, Salon, Medium and Democracy Now among them — have written about the allegation. Just yesterday, the New York Times finally got around to running a story on the subject.
Still, how could it be that so many major mainstream news organizations remain uninterested in such a juicy story involving sex? Having been a working journalist at the national level since 1972, it’s been my experience that reporters salivate more when going after a conservative Republican than they would going after a liberal Democrat.
It’s really that simple.
And if you need proof all we have to do is go back to 2018 and the Senate hearingson Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
You’ll recall that Kavanaugh was accused of assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party in 1982. As with Tara Reade, the accusation was many years old. And like Biden, Kavanaugh denied the allegation.
“But in the 12 days following the first reports of Ford’s claim,” MRC says, “the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows churned out 305 minutes of coverage, a scant amount of that airtime — less than five minutes — mentioned that none of the witnesses named by Ford would confirm her story.”
So how much credence should the mainstream media attach to Reade’s accusations against the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president? Well, journalists might want to take guidance from Biden himself, who said this about Christine Blasey Ford:
“For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
So should we give Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt, or should we afford it to Tara Reade? Let’s again go to Biden’s own words for guidance.
“What should happen is the woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be, you know, abused again by the system. I hope that they understand what courage it takes for someone to come forward and relive what they believe happened to them and let them state it, but treat her with respect.”
But aside from a few news outlets, most journalists are not giving the benefit of the doubt to Tara Reade. What they’re doing is ignoring her — even though they were more than willing to publish flimsy, unsubstantiated charges when they were against Justice Kavanaugh.
No one seriously believes that Reade’s accusation will put a dent in Biden’s candidacy. It’ll amount to nothing more than throwing spitballs at a battleship — though Biden is hardly a battleship. But the accusation will give Democrats an opportunity for some much-needed introspection; an opportunity to examine what “Believe All Women” really means to them.
It’s an opportunity they almost certainly won’t take.
But I can tell you what “Believe all Women” means in the real world of journalism and politics. It means believe all women who go after conservatives, and try really hard to turn a blind eye when they go after fellow liberals.
As I say, it’s really as simple as that.