A rumor floating around on political Twitter a few days ago had it that people who worked on the Kavanaugh confirmation were preparing to drop their entire oppo file on Christine Blasey Ford. Not because Ford is somehow relevant to the Reade/Biden story, but simply to capitalize on the new standard the media has created for digging into the pasts of famous accusers.
Politico went hunting for dirt on Reade’s trustworthiness and found it. Now CNN’s gone hunting and found some too. Which is fair game, to be clear: Since we’re now being asked to weigh the relative credibility of alleged victim and assailant, the more we know about both sides, the better.
But it would have been deemed very dirty pool indeed for reporters to impugn Ford with reports that she’s been a deadbeat about paying her rent. Or, per today’s CNN story, to drill down on the fact that her memories of certain parts of her past aren’t so reliable.
If Ford had accused a Democratic SCOTUS nominee, there’d be no need for the nominee’s allies to compile an oppo file on her. The press would have done it for them.
Anyway, there are three noteworthy details in the CNN piece. This one about Reade’s educational history jumps out because it suggests she is willing to invent self-serving biographical details seemingly out of thin air.
Reade told CNN that she received a bachelor of arts degree from Antioch University in Seattle under the auspices of a “protected program,” personally working with the former president of the school to ensure her identity was protected while she obtained credits for her degree. She also said that she was a visiting professor at the school, on and off for five years.
Presented with this, Karen Hamilton, an Antioch University spokesperson, told CNN that “Alexandra McCabe attended but did not graduate from Antioch University. She was never a faculty member. She did provide several hours of administrative work.”
An Antioch University official told CNN that such a “protected program” does not exist and never has.
People exaggerate their educational credentials all the time. Does that mean they’re necessarily lying about having been sexually assaulted? Of course not. But is their willingness to lie, especially fabricating a detail like the “protected program” whole cloth, something we might want to factor in when weighing their credibility? Sure. How could we not?
The second detail comes from Ben Savage, a fellow former Biden staffer who worked alongside Reade in Biden’s office years ago. Savage told PBS last week that Reade was “fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed.” She didn’t leave due to sexual harassment or sexual assault, as far as he’s aware. He elaborated on that today to CNN:
Reade was overwhelmed by some of her duties at work, which included helping to sort and respond to constituent mail, Savage said. He recalled that some of Reade’s tasks were taken away from her, and said his understanding at the time was that she was terminated because of performance issues.
Around the time of her departure, Savage said Reade “blamed her termination on her health issue — that she thought she was being discriminated against for her health issue.” Savage declined to share on the record for publication what Reade’s stated medical issue was at the time.
Her lawyer told CNN that the sexual harassment and assault she was suffering was the health issue. Interestingly, Savage appears to remember the medical issue she described even though he declined to say what it was; I’m guessing it wasn’t “sexual assault” or he’d sound, ah, a little more credulous about her accusation against Biden. CNN also noticed that in blog posts she’s since deleted Reade claimed alternately that she “resigned” from her job in Biden’s office to pursue acting, because she was disillusioned with the government’s “xenophobia,” and because her boyfriend got a job managing a congressional campaign in the midwest. When asked about that, Reade said she just wasn’t ready yet to talk about Biden’s assault when she wrote that.
The third detail has to do with where Reade worked, specifically. According to multiple former Biden aides, there was a “front office” where the interns and lower-level staffers did grunt work like processing mail and then a separate office where Biden himself and his more powerful aides worked. The two rooms were separated by Strom Thurmond’s office; they weren’t connected. Reade and a friend claimed to CNN that he once massaged her neck at a meeting in front of interns — which, Biden being Biden, seems perfectly plausible. Except that one staffer says he almost never came into the front office. Savage says he can’t remember a single meeting between Biden and interns/junior staffers during his time there. “He didn’t deal with junior staff, ever,” claims another former aide.
So, who knows.
As the media pokes holes in Reade’s credibility, I wonder if Trump will end up trying to use this episode to discredit his own accusers. He’s been uncharacteristically restrained about the Reade matter after going so far in 2016 as to hold a press conference with some of Bill Clinton’s accusers. This time, when he’s been asked about Reade, Trump has sounded almost like a Biden surrogate, sympathizing with the Democrat by assuring listeners that he knows what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a bogus #MeToo claim. If public skepticism about Reade grows, I can see him trying to steer the conversation around to why his accusers — or at least Brett Kavanaugh’s — haven’t been put through the same wringer by the media. What will they say?