New York Times edits Biden sexual assault coverage, deletes references to past inappropriate ‘hugs, kisses and touching’
The New York Times stealth-edited its article on the sexual-assault allegation against Joe Biden by his former Senate staffer Tara Reade just minutes after it was published on Sunday morning, removing all references in a key paragraph to the multiple past accusations by seven women that the former vice president had touched them inappropriately.
The Times piece also focuses on unrelated sexual misconduct accusations against President Trump, and largely dismisses Reade’s allegations as uncorroborated by her co-workers — in stark contrast, conservative commentators and some Democrats said, to how the media and several senators handled accusations about Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Reade filed a report with Washington, D.C., police on Thursday concerning her allegation that Biden penetrated her without consent in 1993, which the Times acknowledged was contemporaneously corroborated by two of Reade’s friends.
According to a copy of the Times’ article saved by the Internet archive Wayback Machine, the Times originally reported: “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.”
That paragraph now reads: “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.”
The Times’ piece contained other references to the several other women who have said Biden touched them in inappropriate ways, but deleted any mention of them in this section of the article.
The Times offered no explanation for the change on its website, nor did it respond to Fox News’ request for comment. The paper made a similar late edit last September, when it updated a story about a newly resurfaced accusation of Kavanuagh to note that the accuser didn’t remember the alleged assault. The update came after virtually all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates cited the story to call for impeaching Kavanaugh.
The Times’ editorial guidlines call for editors’ notes “generally to acknowledge a journalistic lapse other than a factual error.”
On Twitter, at 11:54 a.m. ET on Sunday, the Times tweeted: “We’ve deleted a tweet in this thread that had some imprecise language that has been changed in the story.” The paper had initially begun tweeting excerpts from the published article at 5:39 a.m. ET, including the sentence about Biden’s “hugs, kisses, and touching.”
Additionally, the Times buried a reference to the story in its morning email to readers, after a section on Bernie Sanders withdrawing from the presidential race several paragraphs deep into the email.
Both the Times’ original article and the updated version generated swift backlash.
“The@nytimes deleted this tweet and also did an unacknowledged edit of this out of their story. Brave,” wrote Jeremy Scahill, the co-founder of The Intercept. “What would the correction even say? “An earlier version of this story contained a true statement that the Biden campaign demanded we remove so we cut it without alerting our readers.” Something like that?”
“I’m not sure how that line from the NYT’s long-delayed coverage of Tara Reade’s accusation can sit alongside reporting that 7 other women have accused Biden of sexual misconduct,” wrote Bernie Sanders’ national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray.
“New York Times absolutely knows what they are doing is biased & corrupt because of how they treated Kavanaugh, and they also know they can stand there with sh- eating smiles about it because no other journalists will say sh- about it,” wrote commentator Stephen Miller.
Prior to the Times’ updated edit, Miller sarcastically called the Times’ original paragraph “art.”
“What the $#@!, @nytimes?” asked commentator Josh Jordan. “Not to repeat myself, but this isn’t about the Tara Reade accusations, but Biden’s (and the NYT’s) hypocrisy,” added lawyer Scott Greenfield. “Either it’s due process for all or none. Biden doesn’t get a pass.”
In its piece, the Times goes on to warn that “fling a false police report may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment.”
By contrast, the Times, in 2018, was largely sympathetic to Kavanaugh’s accusers, even publishing an article titled, “For Christine Blasey Ford, a Drastic Turn From a Quiet Life in Academia.” Ford’s close lifelong friend, Leland Keyser, who Ford said had attended the party where Kavanuagh allegedly assaulted her, has told reporters she did not believe Ford’s story and felt pressured to lie about it.
“I don’t have any confidence in the story,” Keyser said. “Those facts together I don’t recollect, and it just didn’t make any sense,” she added, referring to Ford’s explanation of how she was assaulted at a party that Keyser attended, but could not recall how she got home.
And, in a “News Analysis,” the Times wrote a sympathetic piece concerning Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez: “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.”
(During that period, the Times also covered sexual harassment allegations against ex-CDC chief Dr. Tom Frieden, a Democrat, and former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also a Democrat.)
Democrats similarly took a far more aggressive approach during the Kavanaugh episode. Sen. Mazie Horono, D-Hawaii, for example, likened the confirmation process to a “job interview,” and said a lower standard of proof applied to accusations of misconduct. Hirono also cited Kavanaugh’s legal “philosophy” as a reason to suspect his guilt.
In its piece on Sunday, the Times notes that Reade was “hired in December 1992 and paid by Mr. Biden’s office until August 1993” — in contrast to several of Kavanuagh’s accusers, including Ford, who presented no definitive evidence that they had ever met the judge.
Early in the article, the Times asserted that “no former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation.” But several paragraphs later, the paper noted that a slew of other women, including some who had experience with Biden, did find the accusations credible.
“A friend said that Ms. Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time, in 1993,” the Times wrote. “A second friend recalled Ms. Reade telling her in 2008 that Mr. Biden had touched her inappropriately and that she’d had a traumatic experience while working in his office.”
Concerning that paragraph, Townhall political editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson observed: “I don’t know whether Ms. Reade is telling the truth, and the presumption of innocence is a vital pillar of our justice system. But this detail alone presents more contemporaneous evidence against Biden than was ever presented against Kavanaugh:”
“The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.”
“Now consider how these two cases have been treated by the media,” Benson said. “There is nothing even approaching a consistent standard here. The bias is just right out there in the open, for all to see. Utterly undeniable.”
In its piece, the Times conceded that “[t]he seven other women who had complained about Mr. Biden told the Times this month that they did not have any new information about their experiences to add, but several said they believed Ms. Reade’s account.”
But the paper then quickly pivoted to President Trump.
“President Trump has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by more than a dozen women, who have described a pattern of behavior that went far beyond the accusations against Mr. Biden,” the paper wrote.
Observed Reason’s Robby Soave: “New York Times story about Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden is harsher toward Trump.”
Biden, who has previously said that women leveling misconduct accusations should be presumptively believed, has largely gone unchallenged by the media concerning Reade’s claim. Biden has acknowledged that he needs to change his behavior towards women, saying, “I get it.”
Reade has come forward before — last year, when multiple women emerged claiming inappropriate touching by Biden. Reade, at the time, claimed Biden put his hands on her shoulders and rubbed his fingers up and down her neck, but was unable to gain traction on her story aside from an article in a local newspaper.
But in late March, Reade told a far more graphic account, with different and more serious details, raising the allegation to the level of sexual assault.
Reade’s story first resurfaced in an article in The Intercept. She then was interviewed by podcast host Katie Halper.
There, Reade claimed that in 1993, she was asked by a more senior member of Biden’s staff to bring the then-senator his gym bag near the Capitol building, which led to the encounter in question.
“He greeted me, he remembered my name, and then we were alone. It was the strangest thing,” Reade told Halper. “There was no like, exchange really. He just had me up against the wall.”
Reade said that she was wearing “a business skirt,” but “wasn’t wearing stockings — it was a hot day.”
She continued: “His hands were on me and underneath my clothes, and he went down my skirt and then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers and he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying some things to me.”
Reade claimed Biden first asked if she wanted “to go somewhere else.”
“I pulled away, he got finished doing what he was doing,” Reade said. “He said: ‘Come on, man. I heard you liked me.’”
She said she felt that “everything shattered in that moment.” Reade went on to allege that Biden looked at her and said “you’re nothing to me.”
Reade said she attempted to share her story last year, but no one listened to her.
She added: “If people want to know why women don’t come forward, that’s a good example of why.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.