I wish I could reward you for reading this far with a clear conclusion: Did Biden do it? Unfortunately, I still don’t have an answer. My default assumption in cases such as this one is to ask whether it’s possible that the truth lies somewhere in between, and that may be the case here: that Reade really was sexually harassed or at least made to feel very sexually uncomfortable by Biden, and spun that over the years into something bigger, in part to gain sympathy and in part to cover her embarrassment at having been demoted and shoved out the door. Given the evidence of the people she told between 1993 and 1996, I do not think it likely that this is a story she just now invented in 2020. The suggestion in some quarters that she is some sort of Russian plant is just crackpot.

There’s nothing in the public record thus far that really debunks Reade’s claim and makes it unbelievable. If that were the standard, as it was for many critics of Kavanaugh, then Biden would be in deep trouble. Reade has more people in her corner than Blasey Ford did, and she hasn’t named a friendly witness who undercuts her story — as Blasey Ford’s friend Leland Keyser did. Her account is less vague than the one Blasey Ford told, and no more inconsistent. The man she accuses has an uncontested rap sheet for violating women’s boundaries.

But that’s not the standard. The burden of proof isn’t on the accused. And so long as it’s not, there are simply too many rough edges and too many questions to come away convinced that Reade’s story is true. Joe Biden, too, gets the benefit of the doubt that he would deny to others. Based on the evidence we have now, there is still too much doubt to publicly brand him a rapist.