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VICTOR JOECKS: Potential Biden VP pick Cortez Masto refuses to defend him from sexual assault allegation

Updated May 2, 2020 - 10:01 pm

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is in the running to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Yet she’s unwilling to say right now that she believes he didn’t sexually assault Tara Reade.

In March, Reade accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993. At the time, Reade was working in Biden’s Senate office. She recalls that one day when she brought him his gym bag, they were alone. She claims that he pushed her up against a wall, thrust his hand under her skirt and put his fingers somewhere they didn’t belong. Reade said that after she rejected his advances, he told her, “You’re nothing to me.” She said she faced retaliation, including no longer supervising office interns.

Initially, Reade’s brother and a friend confirmed that she told them about the incident shortly after it happened. She also said she told her mom, but her mother is now deceased.

In late April, new evidence emerged supporting her account. Reade had said that her mom called the “Larry King Live” show and asked how to deal with an assault. The Media Research Center dug up the clip. There’s a female caller from San Luis Obispo, California, where property records show Reade’s mom lived. The caller asks for advice about the problems her daughter had while “working for a prominent senator.” After hearing the tape, Reade says it’s her mom’s voice.

In an interview with Business Insider, Lynda LaCasse, Reade’s former neighbor, said Reade told her about the incident in 1995 or 1996. It should be noted that LaCasse is a Biden supporter. Lorraine Sanchez worked with Reade around 25 years ago. She says that, in the mid-1990s, Reade told her about being sexually harassed by her boss in Washington and being fired for complaining. A former Biden intern recalled Reade abruptly stopped supervising interns in April 1993.

The Biden campaign has denied the accusation. Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s communications director, said Reade’s story was “false.” Incredibly, the first time someone interviewing Biden asked him about these accusations was on Friday.

The issue isn’t going away. Even The Washington Post editorial board wants Biden to address the issue. That means that whomever Biden selects as vice president is going to have to defend him. A vice presidential candidate is usually a campaign’s attack dog. In this case, that’s going to mean dismissing a woman who says she’s been sexually assaulted.

Attacking Reade is going to be difficult for Cortez Masto because of her comments after Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. “I stand with survivors,” Cortez Masto said. She added, “I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.”

There is already much more evidence supporting Reade’s story than Ford ever produced. If you believed Ford, intellectual consistency requires you to believe Reade. The better standard is to evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Ford’s claim is false. It’s unclear if Reade’s accusation is true.

Cortez Masto’s current strategy is to stick her head in the sand. Her office didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment, including when asked if she believed Biden’s denial. She also didn’t respond when the Huffington Post asked her about the controversy.

Cortez Masto’s silence isn’t unique among Nevada Democrats. Sen. Jacky Rosen, Rep. Susie Lee, Rep. Steven Horsford, Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, an early Biden supporter, also refused comment.

Rep. Dina Titus was brave enough to give a statement, but see if you can spot the non sequitur.

“I’m a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement,” Titus said. “I believe every woman should be heard and every story should be vetted. Vice President Biden has dedicated much of his career to combating violence against women, and I am proud to support him.”

Maybe Biden should think about Titus for his VP pick. Unlike Cortez Masto, she’s at least willing to go on the record that she’s “proud to support him.”

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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