The Bulwark cites Cathy Young for the proposition that everyone involved in Tara Reade’s story has ‘false memories’ (Update)

Today at the Bulwark Charlie Sykes has a piece titled “What Biden Has To Say.” Here’s how it opens:

I have no idea if Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden are true. And, like Cathy Young, I think there are reasons to be skeptical. (You can read her deep dive into the facts here.)

But the story obviously is not going away and Joe Biden is going to have to address it directly . . . and soon.

To be fair here, I think Sykes does understand what is animating so many people on the right with regard to this story. It’s not absolute certainly about Reade’s story, it’s absolutely certainty that the media treatment of her story is a universe apart from how they treated Judge Brett Kavanaugh just two years ago.

So the issue right now is not just whether Biden committed the act, it is whether the story will be treated in a remotely consistent way. Will the allegations against Biden be accorded the same level of scrutiny as the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh? So far . . . not even close.

That’s exactly right. What we have so far is many of the people who were most outspoken about Kavanaugh completely changing their tune for Biden. And the media (with very few exceptions) is coasting along and giving Biden a pass. It’s truly stunning to watch.

Meanwhile the allegations themselves continue to get more and more credible. And here is where I think Sykes’ piece falls apart because he clearly doesn’t want to offer an opinion of his own, he’s just going to rely on what Cathy Young says:

The invaluable Cathy Young has written a remarkably balanced piece comparing the credibility of the charges against Kavanaugh and Biden: “A Tale of Two Scandals.” In both cases, she writes, there are problems with the credibility of the charges. But, she concedes, they “may, disturbingly, be true—but also leave so much room for doubt that any fair and reasonable fact-finder would have to find in favor of the accused not only under the stringent ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard, but under the very accuser-friendly ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard (which means that it’s at least slightly more likely than not that the accused committed the offense).

I read Young’s piece before Business Insider published the story with corroboration from Reade’s neighbor and co-worker. As these things go, I found it an improvement over Michelle Goldberg (a low bar) or Ruth Marcus. She basically argued that both Reade and Dr. Ford had strengths and weaknesses to their claims. They could both be true but neither story was without serious problems. Fair enough. But I was curious to see if Young had updated the piece in light of the new information. She had but I can’t say I’m impressed:

What to make of this? Well, it’s certainly far stronger than any of the other evidence in Reade’s favor — or in favor of Kavanaugh’s accusers. That said, it’s not unheard-of for people to construct false memories and influence each other, especially in a case that has become the focus on intense publicity. Is it possible, for instance, that Reade originally told LaCasse about what she perceived as sexual harassment by Biden — the neck- and shoulder-touching, the request for her to serve drinks at a fundraiser (and the comment from another aide that the request was due to her attractiveness and “nice legs”) — and recently “jogged her memory” into recalling an account of forcible penetration with fingers? Yes. Yes, it is.

Young comes back to this idea of “false memories” a few paragraphs later only this time it’s Reade herself who has the false memories.

My position on the Christine Blasey Ford/Brett Kavanaugh story has long been that it’s entirely possible they’re both telling the truth: Ford has retroactively magnified an act of drunken teenage horseplay into an assault with intent to rape, while Kavanaugh simply doesn’t remember it. Is it possible that Reade is telling “her truth,” but Biden did not do what she claims he did? Maybe an “incident with the gym bag” did happen: for instance, she brought the gym bag, and Biden kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her waist. Maybe as time went on, her memory “edited” this into a sexual assault — perhaps magnified by the abuse she apparently suffered in her marriage.

Look, I wasn’t there when the alleged incident happened so I can’t say with complete confidence what took place. If someone wants to be skeptical there’s room for that, but I don’t think the way you do that is by making up your own facts, i.e. maybe everyone involved who remembers it or remembers hearing about it just imagined it.

In this case we have two people, LaCasse and Reade’s as-yet-unnamed friend, who say there were told the same story about an assault 25 years ago. Reade’s brother and mother also apparently knew the story. That’s pretty strong contemporaneous corroboration for a case like this. As Young admits, it’s a lot stronger than the support Ford had for her claims.

So to believe what Young claims, i.e. that Reade had some lesser encounter with Biden and “edited” in her mind, that means the three living people who claim they heard details of a sexual assault back then are all wrong. They must be because Reade hadn’t had time to edit the story when she told them back then. That means they all recently had a false memory, presumably pushed by Reade to match the story she had gradually come to believe.

Again, I won’t say it’s impossible but it seems less probably than the alternative, i.e. they all heard a version of the same story back then because Reade was telling the same story then as she’s telling now.

I realize there was some of this regarding Dr. Ford’s story at the time, but here’s the difference. Dr. Ford didn’t have three people she told at the time (or close to it) who remember the story the same way. In her case, all we had was her recall. Her good friend not only couldn’t back it up, she doubted she had ever met Brett Kavanaugh at a party. She continued to say that even after a pressure campaign to get her to change her tune.

So maybe false memories aren’t quite that easy to induce in people as Young suggests. And maybe we shouldn’t assume a whole group of people are having them without some real reason to think that’s the case.

Update: CNN has interviewed LaCasse about what Reade told her in the mid-90s.

Lynda LaCasse told CNN in a phone interview Monday that she remembers stepping out of her two-bedroom home in Morro Bay, California, to sneak in a cigarette break away from her children. It was 1995, perhaps even early 1996, based on her recollection. LaCasse said she often sat outside on her stoop smoking Virginia Slims, and that on this particular day, she cried as she discussed with Reade a custody battle for her kids.

Reade began to cry too, LaCasse said.

“She started talking about Joe Biden. And I didn’t really know much about Joe Biden,” she said. LaCasse said that Reade told her that when she was working in Washington some years prior, Biden “had pushed her up against a wall and he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside of her, and she was dealing with the aftermath of that.”…

LaCasse told CNN that in her conversation with Reade in the 1990s, she suggested that Reade file a police report. Reade responded that she had already had a conversation with her own mother about this topic. LaCasse said that she didn’t clearly remember other details of this exchange. For example, she said she might have referred Reade to a women’s shelter at the time, but said she wasn’t sure if she had.

“But remembering somebody putting their hands up your skirt — that’s something you don’t forget,” LaCasse said.

But it was something she had forgotten — or at least, put out of her mind for years, LaCasse said. After the mid-1990s, she said she and Reade were not in touch, and it was only a few years ago that they reconnected around the time that Reade’s mother died. And according to LaCasse, it was last year when Reade brought up Biden that LaCasse told her that she remembered their conversation about the alleged sexual assault.

So LaCasse told Reade that she remembered what she’s been told years earlier. This came from her memory. She wasn’t tricked into recalling it.

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