MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took on a topic Wednesday night that many mainstream news outlets have so far treated pretty gently: The sexual assault accusation against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by former staff assistant Tara Reade. Hayes’ decision to cover the details around the accusation in primetime on “All In” earned him both derision and praise, and sent his name climbing Twitter’s trending list overnight into Thursday morning.
#FireChrisHayes also trended on Twitter, propelled by the sort of high-follower “resistance” accounts that tweet messages of support for the Democratic party.
“You all must know if we all stop watching he’ll go away, right?” tweeted one account with a bio showing support for a list of basic Democratic platforms. “We have the power,” it said.
Another ostensibly Democrat-supporting Twitter account lamented the segment, comparing Hayes to a Fox News host: “What Chris Hayes did today is no different than what Tucker Carlson does everyday. He gave credibility to a bullsh-t story with no legs to stand on. This is ‘but her emails’ all over again.”
Those reading these critical tweets might conclude Hayes is a conservative, but in reality, he’s one of President Donald Trump’s harshest critics. He’s editor-at-large of the Nation and was once a writing fellow at In These Times, both of which are very, very much on the left.
He started the segment on Reade and Biden by highlighting the accusation’s newsworthiness, not — as the criticism made it seem — necessarily heralding it the absolute truth: “There have been moments, I think, for many of us — all of us — when we have heard about accusations against someone that we find ourselves desperately wanting not to believe, whether that is because we have some personal admiration for the individual and their work or political admiration for someone on our quote-unquote ‘side.’ Part of the difficult lesson of the Me Too era is not that every accusation is true and everything should be believed on its face, but that you do have to fight yourself when you feel that impulse.”
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald gave a virtual eye-roll to the controversy, writing, “Chris Hayes has been one of the media’s most virulent, relentless & arguably effective Trump critics — an all-consuming loathing for the President — but #FireChrisHayes was trending because he covered the sex assault allegations against Biden. Shows what MSNBC has cultivated.”
There was still praise to be found on the left. Congressional candidate Jason Call, a Democratic Socialist, tweeted a “thank you” to the host. The Young Turks Emma Vigeland offered a few different tweets of praise, one of which said, “I am consistently impressed with @chrislhayes‘ willingness to do what is right and buck the undoubtably weighty influence of network television. It’s not close — he is *the* best host working within a system that doesn’t necessarily incentivize his instinctive truth telling.”
Last year, Reade first told a local paper in Nevada County that Biden had inappropriately “put his hand on [her] shoulder and run his finger up [her] neck” when she worked in his Senate office. But in late March, Reade appeared on Katie Halper’s podcast to say that Biden, in 1993, had also pushed her up against a wall in a secluded area of the Capitol building, kissed her, reached under her skirt to penetrate her with his fingers, and then said, “You’re nothing to me” after she pulled away.
A Biden campaign spokesperson said the accusations were “false” shortly after the release of the podcast episode last month. “Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims. We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false,” Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.
On Monday, a former neighbor of Reade’s recounted that the ex-Senate staffer told her about Biden’s alleged assault back in the mid-’90s.
Speaking with Rich McHugh — the former NBC News producer who worked with Ronan Farrow on his Harvey Weinstein investigation — for a piece published Monday on Business Insider, Reade’s neighbor Lynda LaCasse said Reade had told her around 1995 or 1996 that Biden had “put her up against a wall,” “put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her.”
Watch Hayes’ report below:
Chris Hayes covering Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden pic.twitter.com/zs5BJEZGVb
— Ibrahim (@ibrahimpols) April 30, 2020