The former veep is attacking the Trump administration’s new standards on sexual assault allegations. Um… (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
The recent controversy surrounding Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden has been rather embarrassing for many Democrats. Feminists, #MeToo activists, various prominent name-brand journalists, and other ostensible progressives have all taken awkwardly skeptical positions that contradict their previously stated commitments to Believing All Women.
Biden’s own hypocrisy in this area (saying that when a woman accuses a man of sexual assault, “the essence of what she is talking about is true” in 2018, then proceeding to categorically deny that Reade’s allegations are at all true) has undoubtedly been a challenge for his campaign.
One would therefore imagine that the former vice president would want to avoid any further discussion of his record on issues of due process and sexual assault. Instead his campaign recently released a statement excoriating the new Title IX rule issued by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The rule aims to increase basic due process protections for those accused of sexual assault on college campuses. Accusing Devos of trying to “shame and silence” victims of sexual assault, his statement reads:
It’s wrong. And, it will be put to a quick end in January 2021, because as president, I’ll be right where I always have been throughout my career — on the side of survivors, who deserve to have their voices heard, their claims taken seriously and investigated, and their rights upheld.
In other words: due process for me, but not for thee.
Biden’s statement goes on to boast of his direct involvement in weakening due process protections for college students accused of sexual assault during the Obama presidency. This is an odd aspect of his record to highlight, given that the presumption of innocence standard that Biden helped destroy (and that Secretary DeVos is attempting to reinstate) is exactly the one that he and his allies demand he be given in the Tara Reade allegations.
At least when it comes to Biden, progressives seem to have suddenly (and conveniently) rediscovered the importance of due process and presumed innocence. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told journalists that she has “complete respect for the whole #MeToo movement…but there’s also due process.” Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer cautioned that “we have a duty to vet” sexual assault allegations because “not every claim is equal.” And leading #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano recently reaffirmed her support of Biden in the name of “giving men their due process and investigating situations.”
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Yet despite their newfound zeal for due process, many of these partisans are still unwilling to extend such protections to college students. The Obama administration policy that Biden defends–and promises to reinstate–required college administrators to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard (also known as “50 percent plus a feather”) to evaluate campus sexual assault allegations. Biden touts this as one of his greatest achievements during his tenure as VP, and he was indeed instrumental in pushing for its implementation. But ironically, the campus kangaroo courts enabled by the Obama administration would almost certainly have been inhospitable to Biden’s own claim that Tara Reade’s story “never, never happened.”
Amid his weaponization of Title IX tribunals to “change the culture” on college campuses, Biden created an abominably unjust system of smoke-and-mirrors adjudication that often hurt both the victims and the accused perpetrators of sexual assault. Presided over by unaccountable college administrators and governed by arbitrary regulations and murky definitions of wrongdoing, the Biden-led Title IX revisions were both contrary to the standard of due process that he expects for himself and offensive to basic notions of justice. In a 2018 report on the state of due process at the country’s top universities, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) found that nearly three quarters of these institutions didn’t provide a presumption of innocence until proof of guilt. Almost half didn’t require impartial judges and/or juries and more than two thirds didn’t guarantee that “each party may see and hear the evidence being presented to fact-finders by the opposing party.”
As a result, in the years following Biden’s assault on due process rights, young men were tried and found guilty en masse for ambiguous sexual encounters that had occurred months and even years in the past. It was not unusual for the accused to never get to see the specific allegations made against him or to be afforded the opportunity to defend himself.
Nate Hochman is a rising senior at Colorado College and a Young Voices contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @njhochman.