This past week, #TimesUpBiden and #UnEndorseBiden was trending on Twitter in response to a recent sexual assault allegation against Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. While Biden has previously been accused of sexual harrassment, Tara Reade is the first to openly accuse Biden of sexual assault. In a previous article, I endorsed both Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as superior alternatives to President Donald Trump. In light of this allegation, while I still affirm that Biden would make a better president than Trump, it is nevertheless pivotal that Biden is held accountable for his actions.
In an interview, Tara Reade claimed that in 1993, Biden sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office. When she tried to push him away, he allegedly remarked, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.” Reade stated that this moment was particularly devastating to her, particularly given that she had admired him as a proponent of women’s rights. Reade had also accused Biden in the past of placing his hands on her neck and shoulders without her permission. Biden’s transgressions raise serious implications as to whether he deserves to be the Democratic nominee.
Biden has been accused of sexual misconduct before. Eight women have alleged that Biden caused them discomfort by touching them inappropriately or invading their personal space. In 2014, Lucy Flores, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada, was the first to speak out against Biden. An essay she wrote for The Cut described Biden planting “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head. Although Biden released a video saying he would be more mindful of personal space, he failed to apologize for his actions or acknowledge their ramifications, and he minimized his actions to mere societal changes on the limits of personal boundaries. Given the seriousness of these allegations in the #MeToo era, Biden cannot merely address the situation — he needs to admit his faults and apologize. We cannot allow him and his supporters to sweep his behavior under the rug.
If Biden becomes the Democratic nominee, our general election would pit two contenders with allegations of sexual assault against one another as Trump, too, has faced serious accusations of sexual misconduct and assault. These include over 20 accusations of assault and rape. Among these accusers was E. Jean Carrol, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, who accused Trump of raping her in a department store in her memoir. Aside from this instance, Trump once bragged of being able to grab women’s genitalia purely by virtue of his celebrity status. He minimized his statement as “locker room talk,” a clear demonstration of misogynistic vitriol. Trump’s opponents have rightly condemned him for his misogynistic behavior and horrifying actions, and it is abundantly clear that we must likewise hold Biden accountable for his actions. While Trump and Biden’s transgressions are not equatable, both of their actions are deplorable and must be treated as such.
What should we conclude about our democratic process if it forces us to choose our next president from two men accused of sexual assault? The lack of coverage and failure to address these issues suggests that the Democratic Party values control of the White House over justice and accountability. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, we all need to take these allegations seriously. The recent Twitter controversy surrounding Reade’s accusation isn’t just warranted — it’s necessary.
In light of #MeToo and the Time’s Up movement, now is not the time to regress. Democrats, if we hold Trump or anyone else responsible for their reprehensible treatment of women, we must deal with Biden similarly. We do not yet know whether Biden is guilty, but his misconduct must nevertheless be thoroughly investigated by the Democratic Party and discussed by major news outlets. We have to hold Democrats accountable, too, and demand that Biden address his behavior head-on. To do otherwise would be nothing less than hypocrisy.
Brammhi Balarajan (23C) is from Las Vegas.