It took several weeks but, as Vanity Fair put it, the media floodgates have finally opened on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against former Vice President and current Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden. But while the media has finally started to report on Reade's allegations, members of Congress have so far been silent — until Tuesday evening when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) became the first member of Congress to address it.
In an online conversation with members of The Wing, a co-working space for women and people of marginalised genders, someone asked Ocasio-Cortez about the allegations. According to CBS News, the questioner said that she "really resent[s] the fact that the other choice [besides Donald Trump] is someone who has a really long history of being creepy to women,” referring to both Reade’s allegation and the seven other women who have come forward with stories of unwanted touching or inappropriate comments.
"What you're voicing is so legitimate and real. That's why I find this kind of silencing of all dissent to be a form of gaslighting,” Ocasio-Cortez responded. "I think a lot of us are just in this moment where it's like, how did we get here? You know, it almost felt like we started this cycle where we had kind of moved on from."
Reade herself responded to AOC's insights, saying she was proud to have the freshman congresswoman weigh in — for the first time — on her allegations in a public way. "I'm very humbled and honoured because she is literally the only politician that has spoken up on my behalf," Reade told CBS News.
According to Reade, when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, he pushed her up against a wall, put his hands up her skirt, and digitally penetrated her, which originally aired on an episode of The Katie Halper Show podcast.
The Biden campaign has denied the allegation, telling the New York Times, “It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.” They also cited Biden’s role as an author of the Violence Against Women Act in response to the accusation. “Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women," Kate Bedingfield, a deputy Biden campaign manager, said in a statement to the Times. “He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorisation of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully.”
Even still, as the Times and The Washington Post have finally begun to report on the allegation, the outlets have received pushback for not treating Reade’s story with the same lens as other post-Me Too stories. The Times story says that no “former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation,” despite later reporting that two interns did confirm that she was abruptly removed from supervising them, corroborating a detail of Reade’s story. Editor-in-Chief Dean Baquet also admitted to editing a line in the story at the behest of the Biden campaign.
But, beyond media attention to Reade's allegation, Ocasio-Cortez affirms that there is more significance in hearing Reade’s story than just the accusation alone. "A lot of us are survivors, and it's really, really hard and uncomfortable," Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that choosing not to talk about the allegations is the "exact opposite of integrity." It’s "not okay" to prioritise beating Trump over discussing ugly and sensitive accusations against the other candidate, she said, because those issues are "very legitimate thing[s]."
"I think it's legitimate to talk about these things. If we again want to have integrity, you can't say, you know — both believe women, support all of this, until it inconveniences you, until it inconveniences us," she said.