There’s a certain sadness to appearing on “MTP Daily,” MSNBC’s weekday annex to Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” It’s basically a sign that, at least for the moment, you’re not important enough to make the real show, but why not come on and pontificate while host Chuck Todd phones it in?
Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons was clearly not quite ready for prime time this week, so he appeared on Wednesday’s show.
Just because everyone is phoning — or rather, Skyping or Zooming — it in doesn’t mean there isn’t news to be made, particularly when Coons tried defending his fellow Delawarean against sexual assault allegations using a New York Times article he said exonerated the presumptive Democratic nominee.
This is curious, because The New York Times has said the article did no such thing.
The interview was a study in a man who was going to be asked an obvious question he clearly didn’t prep for: Should former Vice President Joe Biden address the sexual misconduct allegations levied against him by former Biden staffer Tara Reade?
“I believe he has,” Coons said, either unaware or unwilling to acknowledge that at that point, Biden hadn’t said a single word about Reade’s allegations. (Biden finally did address the accusation two days later on “Morning Joe.”)
Instead, he seemed to believe that the refutation came from “his life, his character, his record.”
But he also claimed the refutation came from The New York Times.
“[Biden] and his campaign urged that these allegations be fully investigated. They have been,” Coons said. “The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press have dedicated weeks of reporters’ time to digging in, calling people, contacting people, researching. And they all three have concluded that there was no substance to these allegations.”
Coons might have wanted to run this one by the people at the The New York Times, since they weren’t particularly thrilled that Democratic politicians were using their story to exonerate ol’ Joe.
This isn’t just Coons, mind you. In a strongly worded statement, the paper made it clear their April 12 piece on Reade’s allegations took no position either way and singled out Biden’s campaign for using the story in a series of talking points about the sexual assault claims.
“Biden believes that all women have the right to be heard and to have their claims thoroughly reviewed,” the talking points said. “In this case, a thorough review by the New York Times has led to the truth: this incident did not happen.”
“Here’s the bottom line,” they continued. “Vice President Joe Biden has spent over 40 years in public life: 36 years in the Senate; 7 Senate campaigns, 2 previous presidential runs, two vice presidential campaigns, and 8 years in the White House. There has never been a complaint, allegation, hint or rumor of any impropriety or inappropriate conduct like this regarding him — ever.”
So we’re apparently not going to acknowledge those claims of serial inappropriate closeness to women that Biden apologized for last year. That’s not the only problem with the talking points, though. While The New York Times’ examination of Reade’s claims was dispiritingly desultory, it didn’t actually exonerate Biden — and it found some corroboration for Reade’s allegations.
“BuzzFeed reported on the existence of talking points being circulated by the Biden campaign that inaccurately suggest a New York Times investigation found that Tara Reade’s allegation ‘did not happen,'” Danielle Rhoades Ha, New York Times vice president of communications, told the Washington Free Beacon via email.
“Our investigation made no conclusion either way.”
“As BuzzFeed correctly reported, our story found three former Senate aides whom Reade said she complained to contemporaneously, all of whom either did not remember the incident or said that it did not happen,” Rhoades Ha continued.
“The story also included former interns who remembered Reade suddenly changing roles and no longer overseeing them, which took place during the same time period that Reade said she was abruptly reassigned. The Times also spoke to a friend who said Reade told her the details of the allegation at the time; another friend and Reade’s brother say she told them of a traumatic sexual incident involving Biden.”
That’s decidedly not exoneration, no matter how long The Times took to report on the allegations (nearly three weeks) or the fact they actually changed the wording in one paragraph at the behest of the Biden campaign because they “thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct.” (It merely addressed a multitude of allegations that Biden had a tendency to violate the personal space of women in decidedly creepy ways, a fact that apparently constituted “awkward” phraseology.)
In short, The New York Times has given no succor to Biden’s supporters, even if their reporting on Reade’s allegations has been weak at best.
And yet, this point has proffered by a number of prominent Democrats — not just Coons, but also Biden endorsers like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
At least Coons, it’s worth noting, isn’t in the running for the veep spot like Klobuchar and Abrams are, so his use of the talking point was less cynical — albeit more telling.
Coons, like everyone else who cares about the 2020 election, has read The New York Times piece.
He knows what it said — and more notably, what it didn’t say, namely that Reade’s allegations were baseless and refutable. He knows Biden’s talking points are lies.
He parroted them on cue anyway.
Chuck Todd, in full “MTP Daily” phoning-it-in mode, may have put it best after Coons used The New York Times line: “Senator, in fairness, those reports seem to — there’s — basically there’s noth– you can’t prove either — anybody, you can’t prove any of it. There’s no facts. It does feel like we’re stuck in some sort of ‘he said, she said.'”
Yeah. What he said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.