With no witnesses, it’s a nearly impossible story to vet, and major media has generally taken great care with determining the reality of these stories (and it is possible they are doing that as we speak).

But even if Reade’s allegation is untrue, or partially untrue, the current approach of the Biden camp and its Democratic operatives, to issue one statement and place the burden on the media to do their invalidating for them, is an extremely short-sighted and ill-advised approach. Whether the Biden campaign likes it or not, Reade’s allegation is certain to factor into the general election, where Trump is likely to harp on it repeatedly, muddying the waters and giving the media something else to fixate on besides his tragic pandemic preparation mistakes that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. The Biden campaign’s lack of a proactive or meaningful response could look like political malpractice in the not-too-distant future.

This was not Reade’s first public accusation regarding Biden’s conduct toward female colleagues. Last year, several women came forward publicly to say Joe Biden had kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable—Reade was among them. But the highest-profile accuser at that point was Lucy Flores, a former candidate for lieutenant governor of Nevada, who catalogued in a March 2019 essay for The Cut that Biden had behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner toward her at a campaign event in 2014. Biden eventually cut a video expressing a newfound appreciation for personal space (though Flores herself didn’t see it as an apology).