The Russian delegation to the United Nations has been warning for months that American weapons sent to Ukraine will be diverted by criminals and terrorists. So there was nothing unusual about the Russian Federation’s December 8 note to the Security Council requesting a meeting the next morning to discuss “weapons diversion.”
More surprising was the person Russia proposed to brief the Security Council on this apparent threat: A former junior Senate staffer named Tara Reade.
Reade, who had worked briefly for Joe Biden in the 1990s, has no evident expertise on the topic of weapons trafficking. But she had been in the news for another reason: In 2020, she accused Biden of having sexually assaulted her almost three decades earlier, an allegation he denied.
India, which currently holds the Security Council’s rotating chair, rejected Russia’s request, questioning Reade's "relevance and appropriateness" as an expert in global security, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
So Russia dispatched Dan Kovalik, a lawyer and American pro-Russia pundit, to speak in Reade’s place. Hours after the meeting, Reade hosted Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations on her YouTube channel to discuss the topic and what she said was her silencing by the U.N.
"Your name was too toxic for them and they did everything they could to block you from participating," Polyanskiy told Reade of her exclusion.
Reade told Semafor that a Russian U.N. diplomat reached out to her in recent weeks, saying they had seen her criticisms of the war in Ukraine on social media and her YouTube channel. Reade said she is a “longtime anti-imperialist,” and that her comments stem from her frustration with “Russophobia” and the military industrial complex.
“They deflect it as Russian disinformation, which is not true,” she said of Western diplomats at the United Nations. “I don't really understand the deflection or the resistance to doing simply accounting and oversight.”
The Russian attempt to embarrass Biden by calling Reade as a briefer didn’t work.
But it marks a growing interest among Biden’s enemies, domestic and foreign, in a figure from the 2020 campaign whose story faded away.
In recent months, some Republicans in the media and in Congress have publicly mulled whether to call Reade to testify in the House about her allegations against Biden.
On Tuesday, Fox News digital ran an exclusive interview in which Reade criticized the Biden administration over its decision to hire Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic communications official who dismissed her allegations while serving as a surrogate for the Biden campaign. She recently appeared in an interview with Roger Stone and with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Rep. Lauren Boebert also said she supports an investigation into the former staffer’s claims.
Reade’s allegations against Biden were an uncomfortable subject for Democrats, the party that largely embraced the #MeToo movement. During the 2020 campaign, news organizations took Reade’s claims seriously, and found a neighbor whom Reade had told the story to in the 1990s.
But Reade’s history of public praise for Vladimir Putin, not exactly an ally of the #MeToo movement, turned some politicians and journalists off the story. Reade claimed at the time it was merely part of a novel she was writing, but critics claimed vindication when she later embraced Russia's foreign policy.
Reporters also found inconsistencies in the former staffer’s story and witness accounts backing her up. Politico published an investigation on Reade that found she “left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her — she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.” The New York Times spoke to dozens of former senate aides and “found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden."
Vox’s Laura McGann, who extensively investigated Reade’s claims, wrote that Reade’s allegation wound up “in the limbo of Me Too: a story that may be true but that we can’t prove.” McGann’s story, which noted that Reade and her corroborating witnesses had “changed dramatically” their accounts over time to match her more serious claims, seemed to mark the end of media interest in her case.
Reade’s own story to McGann had gone from one in 2019 about being uncomfortable with inappropriate touching and demeaning behavior by Biden and others, to a far more dire claim in 2020 that she was violently penetrated by Biden. As McGann noted in her piece, critics pointed out the severity of her claims escalated just as Biden was locked in a tight race with Bernie Sanders, whom she supported.
When we spoke on the phone, Reade implored me not to write another “hit piece,” and said she wondered why coming forward prompted such strong scrutiny of her, instead of Biden.
The former staffer described the difficulties she faced since going public with her claims. She said she lost friendships, suffered financially, and faced a torrent of death threats and abuse against her and members of her family. Decades-old mistakes and life events were pored over and shared in the press in ways that embarrassed Reade.
She told me she struggled to find a job until recently, when she became a producer for the Youtube commentator Kim Iverson, a Covid-19 vaccine skeptic who has also peddled conspiracy theories about the war in Ukraine.
And following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Reade embraced a role as an apologist for Russian military aggression and opponent of Western support for Ukraine, using her YouTube show to promote Russian officials and American war skeptics, and complaining about how “good news outlets like RT” have been censored.
Fractures within the Republican House ranks have also frustrated Reade, who said the party’s inability to easily select a speaker does not give her confidence about a potential investigation, and causes her to doubt that she’ll ever have the “Weinstein moment” she dreams about. But she told me she’s prepared if Republicans call her up.
“I would rather just go hang out with my horse and garden,” she said. “But I want to use the small platform I have to help others.”
- Politico's trip through Reade's past found "a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region."
- Laura McGann spent a year reporting on Tara Read's allegations. Her "agonizing" story is the most sympathetic of the intensely skeptical U.S. media coverage of her accusations.
- And her allegations posed a challenge for the media. Ben wrote in the Times about how badly the media handled a rape allegation against Bill Clinton in 1999, and how it shadowed this story.