Not just a double standard but a justification of double standards. That’s what we heard yesterday from executive editor Dean Baquet and it’s what we’re seeing today from columnist Michelle Goldberg. Robby Soave at Reason points out how her tune on sexual assault allegations has changed in the past two years, from an absolute heroic narrative built around Christine Blasey Ford, to irritation that some on the right expect the same standard should apply to Tara Reade:
In the midst of the Kavanaugh cycle, Times columnist Michelle Goldberg thanked Ford for her heroism. Here was how Goldberg described Ford’s retelling of the incident with Kavanaugh: “Her soft voice cracked as she spoke. She smiled a lot; her attempts to make everyone see how agreeable and reasonable she is were heart-rending. But she was also poised and precise, occasionally speaking as an expert—she’s a psychology professor—as well as a victim. Watching her push through her evident terror was profoundly inspiring.” The column was titled “Christine Blasey Ford’s Sacrifice.”
Goldberg has now weighed in on Reade’s allegation. The words “hero” and “sacrifice” do not appear in this column, which is titled “What To Do With Tara Reade’s Allegation Against Joe Biden?” The tone makes clear that Goldberg views Reade as an inconvenience who must be dealt with. And the villain of this story is not Biden but “those using this strange, sad story to hector feminists into pretending to a certainty they have no reason to feel.”
Let’s take a closer look at what Goldberg wrote:
Since Reade made her latest accusation, people on both the left and the right have been demanding, with a mix of genuine outrage and gotcha glee, that the Democratic Party live up to its #MeToo commitments and #BelieveTaraReade. “For Elite Democrats, Joe Biden’s Candidacy Means Ditching #MeToo,” said a headline in the socialist magazine Jacobin. “Joe Biden, Brett Kavanaugh and the #MeToo hypocrites,” said one in The New York Post.
How dare anyone expect feminists who’ve been literally shouting “Believe All Women!” should be expected to believe all women. But this next part is what really gets me.
Reade seems almost engineered in a lab to inspire skepticism in mainstream Democrats, both because her story keeps changing and because of her bizarre public worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness,” she wrote in a since-deleted 2018 Medium post. “His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity.” (Reade has since said her comments about Russia stemmed from a novel she was writing, though the Medium article is written as an op-ed essay.)
Apparently, Goldberg has forgotten what a weird crank Christine Blasey Ford appeared to be when she first appeared on the scene. Remember the story about her house having two doors so she would never feel trapped? Remember the claim that she was unwilling to fly because being trapped in an airplane brought back memories of her abuse? It turned out neither story was true as told. Her house did have two doors but only because she was renting the front of it out to a business. As for her inability to fly, it hadn’t prevented her from taking several vacations around the world.
But the point is that these claims about Dr. Ford’s odd behavior were all embraced as a kind of tragic proof that her story was true (even if they didn’t seem to be very consistently applied in her actual life). By contrast, Tara Reade is just a weirdo to whom no special sympathy or understanding are due. Goldberg even admits that it could be possible to view oddities in Reade’s story as based upon her past experiences, though Goldberg clearly doesn’t seem to find this view very compelling in Reade’s case.
Plenty of people with wacky political views are victims of sexual assault. Indeed, I’d imagine that being sexually assaulted by a widely beloved mainstream politician would shatter one’s faith in the system and increase the appeal of fringe political ideas.
Eventually we get to the excuses for why feminists shouldn’t feel obligated to believe this particular woman:
No one, looking at what’s been reported about Reade and Biden, can claim to have more than a hunch about what happened, which is why, I suspect, a lot of mainstream feminists haven’t said much about it. Writers on the left and the right purport to find their silence damning: So liberal feminists don’t “believe women” after all!
Yes, exactly. All of sudden, there’s concern for due process that we didn’t hear about from these same people when it came to Kavanaugh.
The truth is, if Blasey had been so inconsistent in telling her story, feminists might still have believed her, but they likely wouldn’t have made her a cause célèbre, and Democrats on Capitol Hill never would have invited her to testify publicly. Advocates for victims of sexual harassment and assault would worry that using such an ambiguous case as a political weapon would undermine their cause.
Goldberg might as well be beating her own head against a wall because clearly nothing is getting through to her. Dr. Ford was absolutely used as a “political weapon” despite the fact that her case was extremely ambiguous. Her story also seemed to change, including differences about the number of boys at the party. Does Goldberg even remember that or did it simply not register with her at the time?
As it stands now there is more support for Reade’s story than there was for Ford’s. Ford’s friend Leland Keyser, who was supposedly at the party that night, could never back up any part of her account even after a behind-the-scenes pressure campaign to get her to do so. But Reade’s best friend has backed up her account.
Does that mean Reade is telling the truth? No, not necessarily. One of the things feminists seems suddenly willing to acknowledge is that sometimes women lie. That’s why each story should be listened to and then subjected to scrutiny. Feminists like Goldberg have no problem coming up with reasons to be skeptical this time around but when it came to Kavanaugh, any hesitation to believe Ford was a betrayal of all women. It’s an absurd double-standard and the fact that neither Baquet nor Goldberg can admit it doesn’t say much for their credibility.