Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) in an op-ed on Monday lamented the lack of justice for survivors of sexual assault but added that she rejects the “false choice that my party and our nominee [Joe Biden] can’t address the allegations at hand and defeat the occupant of the White House.”
“I’m here for an uncomfortable conversation,” the “Squad” member wrote in an op-ed demonstratively spurred by Joe Biden (D) facing accusations of sexual assault from former Senate staffer Tara Reade:
An open letter:
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) May 4, 2020
It is a “necessary” conversation, Pressley said, adding, “I am a survivor. I am an elected official. I am not new to watching survivors bare their souls, and I am not new to being offered false choices in politics.”
The Massachusetts lawmaker said the Biden-Reade saga prompts an “urgent and visceral question.”
“What does an authentic path towards healing and justice look like for survivors in America?” she asked.
She admitted that there is no clear answer or path and stressed the importance of listening to survivors while slamming her Republican colleagues. They, she claimed, “slammed doors in the faces of survivors during the Kavanaugh hearings, and are spending millions to weaponize these allegations against Democratic women in purple states, do not care at all about survivor justice.”
Despite the sharp demonization of her Republican colleagues, Pressley essentially walked the line herself, attempting to reconcile her call for survivor justice with her innate desire to defeat the “occupant of the White House.”
She wrote in part:
Our assumptions and our starting points for these conversations have to change, and the allegations against Joe Biden are no exception. Listening to the stories of those who step forward is the baseline. We say “believe survivors” because, for nearly all of history, the experiences of survivors have been dismissed and derided by a society steeped in misogyny and hatred. We advocate that we begin with assumptions of credibility and move to due process and reconciliation.
We are in the throes of an election of the greatest consequence — one that will determine if core rights and tenets of democracy survive in this nation. The stakes cannot be overstated. But I have no patience for any person who tells me that is a reason to lower my voice. I reject the false choice that my party and our nominee can’t address the allegations at hand and defeat the occupant of the White House. [emphasis added]
Pressley accused Republicans of “using anything they can to undermine the Democratic nominee” and asked Biden and his campaign to “give a response that models the empathy, diligence, and acknowledgement of broken systems that this conversation demands.”
“I’m asking for true partnership with survivors and advocates, and for policy commitments that get us closer as a nation to reconciling our history of structural violence and oppression,” she said.
“There are survivors in every corner of this nation who can tell you what a more just America would look like. I, for one, will be listening,” she concluded.
Her piece earned praise from fellow “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who called it “powerful”:
“I reject the false choice that my party and our nominee can’t address the allegations at hand and defeat the occupant of the White House.”
This OpEd from @AyannaPressley is powerful, her voice/advocacy offer a path for survivor justice and reconciliation.
And I am here for it! https://t.co/QhLSbNCy0c
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 5, 2020
Biden recently responded to Reade, who claimed that the former senator sexually assaulted her during her time as a staffer in his Senate office in the early 1990s. The Democrat Party’s presumptive nominee denied the claim in a lengthy statement last week, stating quite plainly that “this never happened.”
“I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn’t. It never happened,” Biden said during last week’s appearance on Morning Joe.
“I don’t remember any type of complaint she may have made,” he continued. “It was 27 years ago. And I don’t remember, nor does anyone else that I’m aware of. The fact is that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any complaint ever having been made.”
The Biden campaign has reportedly circulated talking points for Democrat allies, detailing how to better address the allegations.
“Biden believes that all women have the right to be heard and to have their claims thoroughly reviewed,” the talking points read, as detailed by BuzzFeed. “In this case, a thorough review by the New York Times has led to the truth: this incident did not happen.”
The talking points mention Biden’s decades in public life and adds, “There has never been a complaint, allegation, hint or rumor of any impropriety or inappropriate conduct like this regarding him — ever.”
The talking points also contend that “this alleged conduct would have been so wildly out of character for Joe Biden.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is among those who have mimicked the campaign’s talking points, stating that she, a self-described feminist, has read a lot about the current allegation. However, she said she knows Biden and has determined that she is “very comfortable” with “who he says he is.”