Many of us have criticized the shifting and incomplete excuses of former Vice President Joe Biden in refusing to open his papers held at the University of Delaware. This includes politicians like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer who have declared Biden innocent before the start, let alone the completion, of a search of his papers. However, students at the University of Pennsylvania seem to have taken away the wrong lesson from this controversy. The school’s Coalition Against Fraternity Sexual Assault (CAFSA) has thrown out the Penn Dems for not supporting former Biden staffer Tara Reade after she claimed Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. Our point is not that Biden should face the same presumptions of guilt but that both alleged violators and victims deserve to be heard fairly and both deserve due process.
CAFSA declared “We are writing this statement not only to criticize Penn Dems endorsing a sexual predator for president, but also to reinforce our commitment in supporting and believing survivors.”
Emma Wennberg, communications director for Penn Dems, responded by noting that “Penn Dems … reiterates our call for further investigation into the allegations against Biden: we would like to see Biden himself address the allegations but are glad to see his campaign requesting the release of any related Senate documents, and we hope that the Senate will allow all evidence from Biden’s tenure to come to light.”
That is unfortunately repeating the spin of the campaign. There is no reason that Biden would not waive access to any and all papers, including those at the University of Delaware, on any allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault by anyone. He has already denied any such prior allegations. If that it true, all that will happen is that an independent review will find that no one has made such allegations against him. Instead, Biden (after weeks of delay) first assured the public that any such material would be found at the National Archives, which the Archives said was untrue. He then called for release of any documents from the Senate, which the Senate said was not possible. The only consistent position is that Biden has steadfastly refused to open up his papers at the University of Delaware.
The Penn Dems have every right to endorse Biden and Biden has every right to assert his innocence. Currently the record supports his account after various former staff members denied any knowledge of any prior allegation by anyone. However, if the Penn Dems want to be honest in their commitment to full investigation, they should demand a full investigation, including the papers at the University of Delaware.
Conversely, CAFSA clearly is continuing the approach of Kavanaugh and declaring it a matter of principle. It is the wrong lesson.