Similar questions must be posed to the media, which have displayed an extraordinary and unjustifiable double standard in this case, and which, despite the best attempts of the New York Times editor Dean Baquet, have failed spectacularly to account for it. Two years ago, when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of teenage sexual misconduct, the press focused breathlessly on the charges, reporting without caveat anything that came across the transom. Nothing was too ridiculous to repeat — including the claim that Justice Kavanaugh had been involved in a “gang-rape” ring — and what little hard evidence was available was willfully supplemented by weaselly “opinion” pieces in which it was insinuated that the experiences of other people confirmed the specific accusations against Kavanaugh himself. Worse still were the presumptions that undergirded the media’s focus. For some writers, the mere fact that Kavanaugh had been accused was sufficient to tank his nomination, given the “cloud” that it would allegedly create around his tenure. For others, the vehemence of his denial was an indication of his guilt and unsuitability. Yet more took the view that there was no need to presume innocence at all, because Kavanaugh was engaged not in a criminal trial but in a “job interview.” The affair represented a nadir of American journalism.

Given that the evidence is stronger in this case than it was in Kavanaugh’s — we know, at least, that the accuser and accused have met — we must ask why the same rules are not being applied in this instance. Joe Biden is hoping to be president of the United States. Might not a “cloud” follow him around, too?