2020 Election

Obama Bros Called Out for Misrepresenting Interview on Biden’s Accuser

Former Obama administration staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor are facing a progressive backlash after a guest on their popular podcast repeatedly misrepresented sexual assault allegations against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The influential liberal activists invited Salon writer Amanda Marcotte on Monday's "Pod Save America" episode to discuss allegations that Biden sexually assaulted former staffer Tara Reade in 1993. Marcotte's interview included a number of false claims about Reade—who filed a police report Thursday—sparking pushback from fellow progressive journalist Katie Halper. Halper, who first reported the allegations in a March interview with Reade, said the inaccuracies were part of the media's "demonstrable double standard" in covering sexual assault allegations against Biden and others who have faced accusations in the #MeToo era.

"Marcotte, NY Times, & WaPo have a demonstrable double standard when it comes to truth between Reade and Biden and truth between Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh," Halper said in a series of Monday tweets.

Halper's criticism came a day after the New York Times deleted a controversial line in a Sunday article detailing Reade's allegations. Though the Times initially wrote that it found "no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses, and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable," the paper removed the second half of the sentence without explanation following a complaint from the Biden campaign. Vietor quoted the passage during the Monday podcast, though he failed to mention that it had been stealth-edited at the request of Democratic operatives.

In her interview with Vietor, Marcotte claimed Reade worked in Biden's Senate office "like, for a few months in 1993, basically." Reade worked as a staff assistant for Biden for nine months, spanning from December 1992 to August 1993, Senate records show.

Marcotte summed up Reade's allegations by saying she accused Biden of "push[ing] her up against a wall and digitally penetrat[ing] her," adding that "there's not a whole lot more to the accusation." According to Reade, Biden explained away his advances by saying, "Come on, man, I heard you liked me," before telling Reade, "You're nothing to me." Reade also said she was retaliated against following the incident, accusing Biden of moving her to a windowless office and stripping her of most of her duties. Two former interns who worked with Reade told the Times Reade "abruptly stopped supervising them in April." Neither Marcotte nor Vietor discussed these aspects of Reade's allegation, and Vietor responded to Marcotte's summary of the incident by reading a statement from the Biden campaign denying the assault occurred.

Marcotte claimed that while Reade "said she complained about [the assault] to multiple people," those people told Marcotte that they "don't recall any such kind of complaint." Both the New York Times and Washington Post spoke to friends of Reade's who said that she detailed the allegation to them at the time.

Marcotte also downplayed the existence of a "paper trail," saying she found "no evidence" that Reade filed a complaint with the Senate in 1993, as Reade has stated. Biden's official Senate papers were donated to the University of Delaware in 2011 but have not been released to the public. The university initially indicated that the documents would be released two years after Biden retired from "public office," a date that passed in early January. The university now says the papers will be released two years after Biden retires from "public life," meaning the documents will remain sealed throughout Biden's presidential campaign. Vietor said Reade's accusation highlights "how challenging it is to figure out anything that happened a long time ago."

Halper criticized Marcotte for participating in a "smear campaign" against Reade.

"Kind of weird to omit that [Reade] was upset because she was almost immediately smeared as a Russian agent. Especially weird because Marcotte repeats these smears," she said in the lengthy Twitter thread. "She & others are trying to justify media's silence because it's been so deafening people have to be given an answer."

Neither "Pod Save America" nor Marcotte responded to requests for comment.

This is not the first time the "Pod Save America" group has faced pushback for failing to take sexual misconduct seriously. Favreau in 2008 was photographed groping the breast of a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout, a move he later attributed to a lack of understanding that "once you get to the White House … you have to be serious here."