In Light of Tara Reade’s Accusation Against Joe Biden, Points of Basic Principle

by Sunsara Taylor



Several weeks ago, Tara Reade publicly accused Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, of sexually assaulting her 27 years ago when she worked for him as a Senate aide. Joe Biden denies that any such assault took place.

Since then, her accusation and his denial have been treated like political footballs in an escalating and ballooning political scandal, with some backing #IBelieveTaraReade, insisting she be believed, and others insisting that Biden be believed, i.e. #IBelieveBiden. Some progressives posit that Reade must be believed, but Biden should still be supported as a presidential candidate.1 A few have raised critically important questions of due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

In this light, it is important to step back to some basic points of principle:

1. Accusations are not proof of guilt. The standard of “believing all women” is a wrong standard.

Accusations are part of the evidence, but determining the truth and proving it requires a serious and scientific sifting of concrete evidence, and subjecting the body of evidence to rigorous examination, especially in serious crimes like rape and sexual assault. This is in opposition to the stand of just believing all victims no matter what, which has become a rallying cry and litmus test—concentrated in the specific slogan “#BelieveWomen,” on accusations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape.2

Rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual degradation are pervasive throughout society and have touched the lives of most women. They have been covered up by dominant institutions and the culture. This has to be fought, and struggled against. When women who endure these crimes come forward to speak, they are often silenced, shamed, and punished. However, it does not follow from this that every single—or any particular—accusation is true.

As Bob Avakian wrote in a statement which welcomed and upheld the outpourings of the #MeToo movement when it first broke out and included important points of orientation:

This long-suppressed and thoroughly just outpouring of outrage is not the same as any particular accusation. Such particular accusations do have to be approached on the basis of scientifically evaluating the evidence, and this is especially important where the accusations not only allege misconduct but actual criminal action, such as rape or other sexual assault. [Emphasis added]

2. The “court of public opinion” has little to do with truth or justice.

Trials and summary judgments in the “court” of public opinion, in media and social media, are wrong and harmful, precisely for the reasons listed above. The “court” of public opinion does not afford the forum to give people necessary access to the body of evidence nor the scientific sifting through and examination of evidence.

The truth of the accusation, the proof of guilt, need to be determined through a systematic and rigorous scientific process where the evidence is challenged and cross-examined. Instead, in the “court” of public opinion, judgments are assessed and rendered by populist will and majority opinion, completely lacking in correct scientific methods of assessing evidence, and greatly influenced and skewed by politics and prejudices.3 This has nothing to do with truth or justice!

Resorting to such means and mob “justice”—including destroying someone’s reputation, driving them from public life, or generally “canceling” them on the basis of accusations alone, without due process to determine the truth of the accusation and defend oneself—violates basic principles of a just society and ultimately leaves everyone at risk and vulnerable to the “take-down” cancel culture.

3. The passing of time vitiates the evidence and the process of determining truth and justice.

At this point, nearly three decades (27 years) after the assault Reade alleges took place, it is practically impossible to determine what is true, especially because key evidence has been tainted or impossible to refute, such as where individuals were at specific dates/times/places, the context and circumstance of specific incidents, and especially the memory of potential witnesses which generally fades or warps with time. This is evident in this instance as well, where key witnesses have altered their story.4

The crimes of rape and sexual assault are among the most serious, causing tremendous harm not only to the direct victim but to all women everywhere. At the same time, given the serious punishment these crimes often carry, the standards for determining proof beyond a reasonable doubt—for such convictions and punishment—should be extremely rigorous.

A World Without Rape IS Possible—Through Revolution!

Putting an end to rape and all forms of oppression of women is possible, through unleashing the pent-up fury of women and those who stand with them as a social force for revolution. It requires uniting broadly in mass struggle today against all the institutions that protect and reinforce the many different forms of oppression of women as part of that revolution. As Bob Avakian has brought alive and shown, a revolution to overthrow the system of capitalism-imperialism—that has the oppression of women historically woven into it, so that society and the masses of people can go to work on eliminating this oppression as part of a worldwide process, without the chains and workings of the underlying system that reinforces this oppression.

STOP the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!


1. For example, “I Believe Tara Reade. I’m Voting for Joe Biden Anyway,” op-ed by Linda Hirshman, New York Times, May 6, 2020. [back]

2. It is beyond the scope of the current article, but this standard is also extremely harmful. Do you really want to live in a world where anyone, anywhere can have their reputation destroyed—and even their liberty extinguished—by an accusation, and without the necessary and rigorous process of determining the truth of the accusation? Think about the many lynchings of Black men in this country justified by such accusations, most of which were unproven. (See Lynching in America, from Equal Justice Initiative.) [back]

3. A classic example of this is the Nation magazine article headlined “I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too,” by Kate Manne, which states: “We already knew that Biden is the type. Had we as voters and had the Democratic Party taken this seriously, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.” [back]

4. See, for example, “The agonizing story of Tara Reade,” by Laura McGann,, May 7, 2020. [back]

A Question of Basic Stand and Orientation

by Bob Avakian


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