NYT Scrubs Mention of Unwanted Touching from Story on Joe Biden Accuser

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign eve
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The New York Times edited its initial story about a recent sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, removing qualifying language used to determine there was “no pattern of sexual misconduct” on the former vice president’s part.

On Sunday, the Times published an in-depth account of the new accusation leveled by Tara Reade, who briefly served in Biden’s Senate office in the early 1990s. Reade had first come forward in April 2019 to accuse the former vice president of unwanted touching.

In recent weeks, however, she has revealed there is allegedly more to the story. Reade now claims, in particular, that Biden pushed her against a wall and forcibly penetrated her with his fingers, while she was employed by his office sometime in 1993. The former vice president’s campaign has denied the supposed incident ever took place.

The Times, which had held off on reporting on the matter until Sunday, delved into the accusation, but was unable to establish a firm conclusion apart from there being “differing recollections” about Reade’s tenure in Biden’s Senate office. Its article, as initially published, noted that Reade’s accusations was one of several, but claimed there was no “pattern of sexual misconduct” on the former vice president’s part:

Last year, Ms. Reade and seven other women came forward to accuse Mr. Biden of kissing, hugging or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Ms. Reade told The Times then that Mr. Biden had publicly stroked her neck, wrapped his fingers in her hair and touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable.

Soon after Ms. Reade made the new allegation, in a podcast interview released on March 25, The Times began reporting on her account and seeking corroboration through interviews, documents and other sources. The Times interviewed Ms. Reade on multiple days over hours, as well as those she told about Mr. Biden’s behavior and other friends. The Times has also interviewed lawyers who spoke to Ms. Reade about her allegation; nearly two dozen people who worked with Mr. Biden during the early 1990s, including many who worked with Ms. Reade; and the other seven women who criticized Mr. Biden last year, to discuss their experiences with him.

No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.

The Times characterization about their being “no pattern” of misconduct, apart from unwanted “hugs, kisses, and touching” quickly elicited rebuke. Some described the qualifying language used by the outlet as “utterly unbelievable,” especially given the manner in which the Times had previously covered similar allegations against President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Shortly after the Times began drawing criticism for its language, the outlet edited the story — but the glaring contradiction was resolved in Biden’s favor. The sentence that previously read “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable” was scrubbed of its latter half, now reading: “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.” The paper’s editors have not disclosed the edit on the published article.


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