CNN FINALLY Breaks On-Air Silence on Tara Reade After MRC Releases Bombshell Video

News & Politics

Albeit obscenely late and buried on a Saturday afternoon, there was a small victory for those demanding TV news networks cover former Senate staffer Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden as CNN broke its on-air silence with a seven-minute-and-30-second segment.

The mea culpa came less than 24 hours after a bombshell story from The Intercept alleging Reade’s mother called into the August 11, 1993 Larry King Live on CNN and vaguely alluded to her daughter’s ordeal. Early Friday night, the Media Research Center quickly located, clipped, published, and tweeted the video, becoming the first outlet to share it with the world. Of course, CNN refused to give either site credit.

In the case of CNN’s case, CNN Newsroom host Fredricka Whitfield and national political correspondent M.J. Lee worked overtime to defend Biden, spending 40 percent of the report defending the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and take jabs at Reade’s credibility.

The moment came at 1:29 p.m. Eastern with Whitfield pivoting to the 2020 campaign and why a video from 1993 is part of today’s political discussion” and asked Lee to “tell us how this video could relate to a sexual assault allegation made against Joe Biden dating to that time when he was a senator and first of all, M.J., can you bring us up to speed on the allegation itself.”

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That’s quite the understatement. Before this. CNN.com had only two stories about Reade (one from just before the segment and then April 17, both penned by Lee).

Lee highlighted Reade’s background as a staffer and hilariously claimed that only “recently” had Reade “alleged that Joe Biden had sexually assaulted her many years ago” before touting how CNN only “interviewed Reade for the first time on the phone last night.”

April 25 marked one month since Reade’s more serious allegation came to light, so CNN has quite the broad definition of “recently.”

After briefing outlining the disturbing alleged assault, Lee insisted that “the Biden campaign denies this allegation and we will discuss sort of their full response in just a few minutes.”

Whitfield asked if there was “corroboration” and Lee replied by not crediting The Hill, The Intercept, or Rolling Stone, but how The New York Times and The Washington Post had “done some extensive reporting” with both papers having found corroborating witnesses (the former had a friend of Reade’s and the latter had her brother).

Again carrying water for Biden, Lee boasted that “according to The Times, they interviewed some two dozen people who worked with Biden in the early 1990s and none of them corroborated Tara Reade’s allegation.” In this Me Too era (and as readers will recall), such leeway wasn’t afforded to Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The report moved to Reade’s mother and the clip (which, again, did not cite the MRC) with Lee continuing to spin (click “expand”):

LEE: Well, Tara Reade’s mother is a key figure in all of this because she is the one other person that Tara Reade says she told about the alleged sexual assault at the time. Now she died a few years ago so she is not somebody who can speak and corroborate any part of this story now, but what surfaced last night was a segment on CNN’s Larry King Live from 1993 that appears to feature Tara Reade’s mother’s voice. Let’s watch that first and then we can talk about it.

[CALL ON LARRY KING LIVE, 08/11/93]

LEE: Now what Tara Reade told CNN last night on the phone is that this is, in fact, her mother’s voice that she feels certain about that and that some time after the alleged assault in 1993, her mother did tell her that she had called in to Larry King and Reade told CNN she was upset about that at the time because she didn’t want her mother doing anything of that kind. Now to be clear, this woman’s voice that we just heard, she only refers to problems related to her daughter and a prominent senator, but she doesn’t name any names. She certainly doesn’t mention any details, doesn’t say anything about sexual harassment or sexual assault, so I think it’s just very important that we be clear about what this clip does and does not show. It does seem to suggest that Tara Reade did share something with her mother that she found troubling about her experience of working with a senator.

Shorter Lee: Don’t assume anything! It could have been anyone!

The remaining two-plus-minutes were evoted to refuting Reade with Lee explaining that while the Biden campaign has yet to respond to Friday’s bombshell, they’ve released a statement decrying Reade’s tale as “untrue” (and a hilarious suck-up to the “independent press”). She also threw in a glowing statement from a former Biden staffer blasting the “clearly false allegations” that “are in complete contradiction to the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know.”

With CNN off the board, that leaves ABC and NBC as the cowardly outlets that have yet to utter a word about Reade.

To see the relevant transcript from April 25’s CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield
April 25, 2020
1:29 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: 2020 Race; Biden’s Accuser Says Her Mother Spoke of “Problems” Working for “Prominent Senator” in 1993 CNN Clip]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Alright, turning to the 2020 campaign and why a video from 1993 is part of today’s political discussion. CNN national political correspondent M.J. Lee joining us now. So M.J., tell us how this video could relate to a sexual assault allegation made against Joe Biden dating to that time when he was a senator and first of all, M.J., can you bring us up to speed on the allegation itself?

M.J. LEE: Well, Fred, a woman named Tara Reade — she was an aide for Joe Biden in the early 1990s. She recently alleged that Joe Biden had sexually assaulted her many years ago and CNN interviewed Reade for the first time on the phone last night. CNN had previously reached out to her but last night was the first time that she agreed to be interviewed on the record and she says that some time in 1993, that she was asked to deliver a duffel bag to then-Senator Joe Biden and that inside of a corridor, somewhere inside the Capitol Hill complex, that Biden had her up against a wall, used his knee to spread open her legs and put his fingers inside her. Now the Biden campaign denies this allegation and we will discuss sort of their full response in just a few minutes, but the context that’s important here, too is that this woman, Tara Reade previously last year publicly said that Biden had touched her in ways that had made her feel uncomfortable. Touching her neck, touching her hair, so this new allegation of sexual assault is obviously new and so much more serious than what she said last year.

WHITFIELD: And is there corroboration of Reade’s story?

LEE: Well, what is important is that several media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, they have done some extensive reporting on this allegation and story and The New York Times says that they spoke with a friend of Reade’s who told The Times that Reade told her about this alleged assault at the time that it happened. They also spoke with a second friend who says that Reade told her in 2008 about Biden touching her inappropriately. The Washington Post also spoke with Tara Reade’s brother who initially told The Post, “I heard that there was a gym bag incident….and that he was inappropriate. I remember her telling me he said she was nothing to him.” Now interestingly, several days later, according to The Post, Tara Reade’s brother got back in touch with the paper and said he did remember her saying that Biden had put his hands under her clothes. Now I also just want to share that according to The Times, they interviewed some two dozen people who worked with Biden in the early 1990s and none of them corroborated Tara Reade’s allegation. They also spoke with some other woman who had previously also said that they felt uncomfortable with some of the physical interactions that they had with Joe Biden, though very important to note none of them accused him of sexual assault. All of these women that The Times reached out to said that they didn’t have anything new that they wanted to add about the experiences they had, though several of them did tell The Times that they believe Tara Reade’s new allegation.

WHITFIELD: Now, M.J., so — so how does Reade’s mother factor into all of this?

LEE: Well, Tara Reade’s mother is a key figure in all of this because she is the one other person that Tara Reade says she told about the alleged sexual assault at the time. Now she died a few years ago so she is not somebody who can speak and corroborate any part of this story now, but what surfaced last night was a segment on CNN’s Larry King Live from 1993 that appears to feature Tara Reade’s mother’s voice. Let’s watch that first and then we can talk about it.

CALLER [on 08/11/93, CNN’s Larry King Live]: Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.

LARRY KING [on 08/11/93, CNN’s Larry King Live]: In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?

CALLER [on 08/11/93, CNN’s Larry King Live]: That’s true.

LEE: Now what Tara Reade told CNN last night on the phone is that this is, in fact, her mother’s voice that she feels certain about that and that some time after the alleged assault in 1993, her mother did tell her that she had called in to Larry King and Reade told CNN she was upset about that at the time because she didn’t want her mother doing anything of that kind. Now to be clear, this woman’s voice that we just heard, she only refers to problems related to her daughter and a prominent senator, but she doesn’t name any names. She certainly doesn’t mention any details, doesn’t say anything about sexual harassment or sexual assault, so I think it’s just very important that we be clear about what this clip does and does not show. It does seem to suggest that Tara Reade did share something with her mother that she found troubling about her experience of working with a senator.

WHITFIELD: Hmm and then is there a response coming from the Biden campaign?

LEE: So, the Biden campaign is not commenting on this Larry King Live segment that surfaced last night, but they did previously share statements denying the sexual assault allegation. I first want to read a statement from Kate Beddingfield, the deputy campaign manager. She says: “Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence against women act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.” Now the other statement that the campaign also shared with CNN is from Marianne Baker. She was the executive assistant for Biden in the 1980s and 1990s when Biden was senator. She is the woman that Reade told The Times she had complained to in addition to two other aides at Biden’s office. Let me just read baker’s statement. She says: “In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed or heard of or received any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone. I have no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager. These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.” Fred?

WHITFIELD: Alright. M.J. Lee, thank you so much for that.

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