A day after Politico reported that Tara Reade may have lied under oath about earning an undergraduate degree, her attorney, Douglas Wigdor, announced that his firm no longer represents her as a client. In a statement, Wigdor said that he still believes former vice-president Joe Biden assaulted Reade in the early 1990s, and says that the firm made its decision on May 20, a day before Politico published its report. But he offered no further explanation for his firm’s decision to drop her as a client, and the news will inevitably reinforce skepticism of Reade’s story.
“Our Firm no longer represents Tara Reade,” Wigdor Law announced in the statement. Our decision, made on May 20, is by no means a reflection on whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted Ms. Reade. On that point, our view — which is the same view held by the majority of Americans, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll — has not changed.”
It continued: “We also believe that to a large extent Ms. Reade has been subjected to a double standard in terms of the media coverage she has received. Much of what has been written about Ms. Reade is not probative of whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted her, but rather is intended to victim-shame and attack her credibility on unrelated and irrelevant matters. We genuinely wish Ms. Reade well and hope that she, as a survivor, is treated fairly. We have and will continue to represent survivors regardless of their alleged predator’s status or politics. We will not be providing further comment.”
The news that Wigdor had decided to represent Reade leant some credibility to her case. Though the attorney supported Donald Trump in 2016, he has also represented several Harvey Weinstein victims and repeatedly sued Fox News on behalf of women who experienced purported sexual harassment, assault and racism at work.
Though reports in Business Insider and The Intercept have surfaced important corroborative evidence for aspects of Reade’s story, Politico’s story is damaging. The outlet reported that while Reade had claimed that she completed a bachelor’s degree at Antioch University in Seattle, a spokesperson for the school said that she never graduated. Defense attorneys in California told Politico that they were reviewing cases in which Reade appeared as an expert witness on domestic violence. Reade later graduated from Seattle University’s law school; it’s unclear how she could have been admitted to the program without an undergraduate degree.
Reade did not need an undergraduate degree to qualify as an expert witness in domestic-violence prosecutions. Nor does her uncertain résumé mean that she’s lied about her alleged assault. Survivors can take years or even decades to come forward with their stories, and trauma can lead to erratic behavior. False accounts of rape or assault remain rare. And Biden has his own history of fabulism and boundary-violating behavior, which ought to make him a difficult figure for liberals to defend.
But if Reade did lie about her academic record, the Wigdor firm’s decision to move on from her case starts to make a lot of sense. It could also damage the feminist cause with which she has become associated.