A 2008 column in the far-left magazine CounterPunch accusing Joe Biden of “loutish sexual advances” in the U.S. Senate has become a lightning rod in the debate over Biden and his former staffer Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual assault in 1993.
The article, written by the late Alexander Cockburn, lamented then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s choice of Biden as a running mate in August 2008. Biden, in Cockburn’s view, was an empty and worthless swamp creature, a D.C. insider chosen purely to improve Obama’s electoral odds who would ultimately stifle any progressive agenda for the candidate of “Hope and Change.”
Yet just five paragraphs in, Cockburn made an aside about Biden’s character that accused him of harassing women who worked in the Senate, even while he was supposedly grieving over his wife’s death:
Biden is a notorious flapjaw. His vanity deludes him into believing that every word that drops from his mouth is minted in the golden currency of Pericles. Vanity is the most conspicuous characteristic of US Senators en bloc, nourished by deferential acolytes and often expressed in loutish sexual advances to staffers, interns and the like. On more than one occasion CounterPunch’s editors have listened to vivid accounts by the recipient of just such advances, this staffer of another senator being accosted by Biden in the well of the senate in the weeks immediately following his first wife’s fatal car accident. [emphasis added]
These three sentences have gone viral as the former VP, now the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, is trying to discredit Tara Reade, a woman who briefly worked for Biden’s office in the early 1990s.
Reade says Biden pushed her against a wall and digitally penetrated her. She is now calling for him to release his congressional papers, which could include personnel files that may corroborate her claim to have filed a sexual harassment complaint — which, in her recollection, omitted the alleged assault.
CounterPunch republished Cockburn’s piece this Tuesday, framing it around the much-shared passage with a new title: “Biden the Lout.” Editor Jeffrey St. Clair added a note to the beginning of the post (emphasis added): “We reprint the story today because it makes clear that the allegations of sexual misconduct against senate staffers has been swirling around Biden for many years, dating back to his first years in the senate.”
The magazine’s reporting contradicts a talking point reportedly shared within the Biden campaign. Hours after CounterPunch republished Cockburn’s column, BuzzFeed published a story containing the apparent party line on Reade’s accusation:
“Biden believes that all women have the right to be heard and to have their claims thoroughly reviewed,” the talking points read, according to a copy sent to two Democratic operatives. “In this case, a thorough review by the New York Times has led to the truth: this incident did not happen.”
“Here’s the bottom line,” they read. “Vice President Joe Biden has spent over 40 years in public life: 36 years in the Senate; 7 Senate campaigns, 2 previous presidential runs, two vice presidential campaigns, and 8 years in the White House. There has never been a complaint, allegation, hint or rumor of any impropriety or inappropriate conduct like this regarding him — ever.”
The final sentence — “There has never been a complaint, allegation, hint or rumor of any impropriety or inappropriate conduct like this regarding him — ever” — is clearly refuted by Cockburn’s column, printed more than a decade before this current scandal.