Former Sanders Spokeswoman Accuses Media of Protecting Joe Biden

Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden arrives to speak about COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware on March 12, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) former campaign spokeswoman is accusing the media of protecting former Vice President Joe Biden in his quest to win the White House.

Briahna Joy Gray, the former national press secretary for the Sanders campaign, told The Atlantic in an interview published Thursday that Biden’s success in the 2020 race was because of “months of concentrated media attention.” That attention, according to Gray, skewed heavily toward accentuating Biden’s supposed electability while “not talking about any of his vulnerabilities.”

“Of course, if you’ve never heard of Tara Reade’s allegations, if it’s never been framed up to you on the mainstream news that Joe Biden has these vulnerabilities on trade, if the only explanation you’ve ever gotten is that Trump won because he’s racist,” Gray expressed to the magazine, “you are going to believe that Joe Biden is the most electable candidate.”

Gray also compared the media’s treatment of Biden to its coverage of Sanders. Most notably, she criticized media pundits, like former MSNBC host Chris Matthews, of claiming a “Communist revolution” was imminent after the Vermont septuagenarian scored an impressive win in the Nevada caucuses.

“At the end of the day, it was incumbent on Bernie Sanders to overcome those challenges. … But to pretend that the voters were operating in kind of a neutral, unbiased media climate is also inaccurate,” Gray said, adding that “people need information to make informed decisions, and unfortunately the media climate meant that was not the case.”

The comments come as Gray has emerged as a high-profile critic of the former vice president from within the progressive movement that once made up the bedrock of Sanders’ support. Last week, Gray elicited headlines for refusing to follow her onetime boss in endorsing Biden.

“I supported Bernie Sanders because he backed ideas like Medicare for All, cancelling ALL student debt, [and] a wealth tax,” she announced shortly after Sanders decided to throw his weight behind the former vice president. “Biden supports none of those.”

Gray’s decision to withhold her support underscores the ideological challenge that lays ahead for Biden as he seeks to unite Democrats ahead of the general election. Since Biden routed his opposition on Super Tuesday, Sanders-style progressives have begun eyeing their options. Many seem to have found Biden, who has unequivocally come out against universal health care and has shown disdain for the “socialist” label, insufficiently progressive.

Nor do progressives appear likely to come around anytime soon on the former vice president’s candidacy. Some, in particular, are concerned about the new sexual assault allegation leveled against the former vice president by former staffer Tara Reade. Gray, herself, has called the allegation not only “credible,” but also potentially disqualifying—a line echoed by many on the progressive left.

In her interview with The Atlantic, Gray added a new dimension to the assault conversation by lambasting the media for waiting weeks to cover Reade’s story.

“There’s a lot of reasons why Democrats might want to substitute a different person for Joe Biden as the nominee,” she said. “The Tara Reade allegation has been handled abysmally by the press.”

Although Gray did not mention any outlet by name, the one that has taken the most heat for waiting 19 days to cover the alleged assault is the New York Times. When the paper did finally cover the story, it chose to cast doubt on the allegations, claiming there were “differing recollections” of what supposedly transpired.

The Times also drew controversy for editing the story after it had been published to remove any mention of “unwanted touching,” when claiming there was “no pattern of sexual misconduct” by the former vice president. Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor, later suggested the edit was made at the behest of the Biden campaign.

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