A little more than two weeks ago, Activist Tara Reade came forward with sexual assault allegations against current presidential hopeful Joe Biden. What happened next, was silence.

The media continued to ramp up its coverage of coronavirus and few outlets covered Reade’s story.

Obviously, this was something that Femestella could not ignore. Our stance is to believe all victims and Reade was certainly no exception. So I reached out to our writers to see if anyone wanted to cover it.

But as anticipated, most writers were hesitant. This is a particularly complicated story and with Biden looking more and more likely to be the Democratic nominee for president (and our only hope to get Trump out of the white house), nobody quite knew how to proceed.

Below is a discussion between writer Ashley Ziegler and myself about the situation and our complicated feelings about how to handle it as journalists.

(You can listen to Reade’s original interview with Katie Halpern in which she details her 1993 assault here)

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ASHLEY: I’m not sure if I can write this. It’s so tough for me because it’s disgusting and disturbing but if he’s the DNC choice it’s at the point where I’m like, “well his crimes don’t add up to Trump’s so I will still vote for him.” I’ve been struggling with this story/these feelings since I heard the news.

LENA: That’s exactly how I feel. Obviously, my default is to believe all victims and I believe that all women deserve to have their stories told. But I can’t help but fear that this will lead some democrats not to vote at all. But if we have to decide between two rapists/assailants as president (apparently that’s what we do now), obviously Biden is the lesser of two evils in more ways than one. It’s such a difficult story to tackle.

joe biden tara reade rape
Biden on the campaign trail in South Carolina

ASHLEY: I hadn’t even considered the fact that this could lead fellow Dems to just skip voting altogether. Under normal circumstances, I’d totally agree with not supporting someone (whether its a politician or celebrity) based on this allegation, but I feel like not showing up to vote is inexcusable in 2020. If this is who we have to choose from, then it’s unfortunate, but we have to get Trump out of office.

And who knows, maybe by wiping the White House clean of this administration, we can get people in there who will investigate and hold Biden accountable for these actions. We all wish someone would do that with Trump, so it shouldn’t make a difference if it’s a Democrat sitting there. I just hate the situation. I feel like I’m essentially asking this woman to wait it out until the election is over and, once Trump is gone, then we can all address it. It sucks.

LENA: I guess I’m just worried that this whole election is hanging on by a thread. I would say there are probably a lot of people under the age of 40 who are already not so thrilled with Biden for a variety of reasons and we really need people to be excited about this election. Because as much as we’ve been saying for the last four years that we have to get Trump out of the White House, there are parts of us that have started to normalize his horrible actions and I do worry about voters’ complacency.

That said, I do truly believe that this woman deserves to be heard and Biden needs to be investigated. But do we hold off until he’s in office, like you said? I don’t know. One of the major differences between the GOP and the Democratic parties, in my eyes, is that the GOP has always been willing to put the party ahead of what’s right, while the Democrats will sacrifice themselves if it means doing the right thing. Is this the time when we have to put aside our morals for what seemingly would be the greater good of getting Trump out of office? Because that feels really crappy.

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Biden with President Barrack Obama

ASHLEY: Biden was definitely my last choice for the nomination. He’s basically told millennials to suck it up in terms of our economy (and that was before COVID) and doesn’t plan to really combat the healthcare crisis in America. Plus, he’s another old white dude! But, he also worked under Obama (“and I just miss Obama so much!”) and he’s not Trump.

But, is just being “not Trump” the bar for the Democratic party? That’s a pretty low bar for someone to reach.

As a woman, a mom of two daughters, and a friend to women who’ve been assaulted, I’m ashamed because I want Trump out of office so badly that I’m willing to file away Reade’s story until after Biden is sworn in. It’s gross, and I hate it.

LENA: You’re right. I hate that we’re even having to have this conversation. That we’re even talking this way about a sexual assault survivor. It goes against everything I stand for. And yet, here we are.

But most of all, I hate that we’re even in this position in the first place. Even before Reade came forward, there were already numerous women who made allegations that Biden had touched them in an inappropriate way, which he subsequently made jokes about. And yet, obviously, that didn’t bother many voters as it’s looking like Biden will be the Democratic nominee at this point. So, essentially, we’re being forced to choose between a rapist (our current president) and a sexual assaulter on the ballot.

Clearly, this is not an issue that bothers voters. What, if anything, do you think it will take for voters to actually care that we’re electing sexual criminals into office?

joe biden sexual assault
Biden with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

ASHLEY: Wow, “choose between a rapist and a sexual assaulter” is right on point, and it’s chilling.

Honestly, I think it is an issue that bothers voters, but there is this overwhelming sense of powerlessness when it comes to our government. I always show up to vote, but my vote only counts once and it’s disheartening when my candidate loses in the primaries and I have no choice but to pick between “the lesser of two evils,” neither of which I wanted in the first place.

And, this is coming from someone who has easy access to vote. There is so much gerrymandering and voter suppression in this country, which means a significant portion of people are unable to even participate in the voting process and for those who can participate, there’s a good chance their vote doesn’t even matter. The system is rigged in favor of the GOP.

The “two evils” we end up voting between are a direct result of a system/leadership problem, not voters being okay with criminals and corruption. So the question that legitimately keeps me up at night is, how the hell can we fix this overarching problem? How do we get the US to a place where sexual assault accusations matter, a politician’s character is as important as their platform, and every single citizen who wants to be heard gets a vote in every election?

LENA: Those are some big questions and I don’t think anyone has the answer. If there were a simple fix, someone like Obama or Oprah surely would have found it by now!

I guess we just have to keep fighting and hope that, in the long run, we end up changing things for the better.

The good thing is that, for the first time in a long time, we have people who are genuinely motivated to change things. We have an incredible generation of kids and teenagers who are growing up with these issues and actually care. People like Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, and more are committed to making our world a better, more just place. And I guess I just have to hope that all this work we’ve been doing will pay off. Even if it takes a long, long time.

ASHLEY: Well said. I couldn’t agree more!

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