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Tara Reade’s Tumultuous Journey to the 2020 Campaign

Last spring, after years of strife with friends and neighbors and a constant struggle for money, Tara Reade was making a fresh start in a new town, Grass Valley, Calif., near the outskirts of Tahoe National Forest.

She found a place for her adopted rescue horse, Charm, and a tidy ground-level apartment for herself and her cats. Ms. Reade, who had moved from the Santa Cruz area, told friends about a new passion and appreciation for Russia, its culture and its leader. She was working on a novel.

But trouble would find her in Grass Valley, too. Work would be hard to come by. Her car would be repossessed. Rent would fall into arrears. Acquaintances who tried to help would accuse her of failing to repay the money they had lent her, of skipping out on bills and misleading them, just as others had done in the places she had left behind.

It was a messy life, played out in obscurity.

Then came accusations from several women that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had made them uncomfortable by touching or kissing them inappropriately in public settings.

Ms. Reade was reminded of her own experience with Mr. Biden, as a junior aide in his Senate office in 1993, and she went public in her local paper. Mr. Biden, she said, would rest his hands on her shoulder and run a finger along her neck. After he requested that she serve drinks at a reception because he “liked my legs,” she said, she refused, only to be marginalized and ultimately forced out.

Eleven months later, after alleging behavior that in her own telling fell short of “sexual misconduct” — it was “about abuse of power,” she said then — she would level a much more serious charge, of sexual assault, which Mr. Biden flatly denies.

Now Ms. Reade’s own back story has been caught up in the churn of #MeToo-era politics, as rising questions about her credibility add fuel to the social-media combat between Mr. Biden’s defenders and detractors.

In May, Antioch University Seattle said Ms. Reade had not obtained a bachelor’s degree there, as claimed on her résumé. That in turn raised questions about how she had gained admission to law school, and led defense lawyers and prosecutors in California to begin reviewing domestic-violence cases in which she had served as an expert witness. A prominent #MeToo lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, dropped her only two weeks after taking her as a client.

If the national stage is new for Ms. Reade, the sturm and drang is anything but.

ImageMs. Reade in 1992. 
Credit…via Tara Reade

To better understand Ms. Reade’s tumultuous journey to the roiling center of the presidential campaign, The New York Times interviewed nearly 100 friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors and reviewed court records. What emerged was a shambolic life in which Ms. Reade, through her own pluck and smarts and powers of persuasion, overcame an unsettled and abusive childhood to find opportunities on the big stages of acting, politics and law. She won praise for what friends took as a sincere commitment to helping other abuse victims and to animal rescue.

“She was very funny and very engaging and completely well educated, intelligent,” said one former friend and co-worker, Deborah Ayres. But, she added, there was also “this other side that didn’t add up.”

It was there, on that other side, that those opportunities would dissipate amid new blows of abuse, acrimony and regret, leading to Ms. Reade’s more recent scramble for work as a pet sitter and census field supervisor. (That, too, would end in an allegation of maltreatment against her bosses.) She had “a heavy, dark sadness to her,” another friend recalled.

In many ways, The Times’s findings comport with the autobiography Ms. Reade, now 56, has rendered in cinematic detail across blog posts, online essays and court statements. But in the dramatic retelling of her life story she has also shown a tendency to embellish — a role as a movie extra is presented as a break; her title of “staff assistant” with clerical responsibilities in Mr. Biden’s office becomes “legislative assistant” when his shepherding of the Violence Against Women Act is an asset for her expert-witness testimony in court.

And there are the former friends who describe how she spun her way into their confidence with her story of abuse and perseverance, only to leave them feeling disappointed and duped.

Ms. Reade has insisted those friends were in the wrong — one was a “slumlord,” another a “drunk,” a third a tax cheat — just as she said Antioch was mistaken about her degree. In an email, she acknowledged taking “creative license” in some parts of her online biography. Other parts, she said, might include honest mistakes.

“If memories are not perfectly accurate, I will be condemned as a liar in the national press,” she wrote. “This standard is not applied to Joe Biden, who is allowed to make his denials without a simultaneous airing of all the hundreds of inconsistencies between reality and his public statements over the course of his life.”

Only two people know what did or did not happen between Ms. Reade and Mr. Biden in the spring of 1993. Still, like other significant chapters of the #MeToo moment, Ms. Reade’s comes with the statements of confidants who say they heard her account long before it became public.

But while five people have said Ms. Reade shared all or part of her account of sexual harassment with them around the time she says it happened, corroboration of the assault charge is shakier.

The two people who say she told them of it contemporaneously — her brother and a longtime friend — initially offered accounts of harassment, not assault. The friend told The Times in 2019 that Mr. Biden’s behavior was “a little bit just over the line, but nothing like, ‘Oh my God, call 911.’”

The friend says she had withheld the full story because Ms. Reade was not ready to share it, and two other people have said she told them of an assault a few years later. Professionals who counsel sexual-abuse victims say it is not uncommon for them to reveal what happened piecemeal, over time.

It was fear of how her background would be portrayed, Ms. Reade has indicated, that kept her from speaking out sooner.

“It took me a long time to come forward,” she told the television journalist Megyn Kelly, “because of things that were happening in my life.”

Credit…via Tara Reade

Ms. Reade grew up as Tara Moulton, spending her early years on the family farm in Wausau, Wis., where she gained her love of horses and what she said was her first experience with abuse.

“The first powerful man who abused me physically and emotionally was my father,” she wrote in a Medium essay in January titled “Powerful Men and the Women They Choose to Destroy.”

Her father, Bob Moulton, was a journalist and community-theater actor turned public-relations executive. She was far closer to her mother, Jeanette Altimus, an amateur painter of some local renown. Ms. Reade described her in an email as “a beautiful inspiration” who “always stood up for justice” and took her along to protest marches in Madison and Chicago.

Both parents abused alcohol. They fought constantly, as did Tara with her father.

“They pushed each other’s buttons, and that brings the worst out in people,” her brother, the comedian Collin Moulton, said in an interview, describing their father as “a good guy in some ways, flawed in others,” who later found sobriety. “They had an abusive event, I don’t know exactly what it was,” he added.

Ms. Reade has not detailed the abuse, but wrote of her father as a defense contractor with the corporate ethics of a pirate who died “alone and broke” — karma, she suggested.

A stepbrother, Scott Thoma, disputed that characterization as “meanspirited.” Mr. Moulton’s defense work never went beyond public relations, he said, and he died neither broke nor alone.

Adding to the strife was Mr. Moulton’s affair with Mr. Thoma’s mother, which led to divorce, and the first beat in the peripatetic rhythm of Ms. Reade’s life.

Her mother would move her 160 miles south, to Verona, Wis. That pulled her away from what she portrayed in an online biography as qualifying for “the Junior Olympics in downhill ski racing” but which she acknowledged in an email was a regional “Jr. Ski race training program” in which she had shown promise.

High school brought a new passion: acting. In the Medium essay, Ms. Reade described moving to Los Angeles, looking for her big break, studying with Robert Reed of “The Brady Bunch.”

She would go on to nail her auditions for the Juilliard School in New York, she wrote, only to have an instructor inform her that no scholarships were awarded until junior year. Her father, whose income disqualified her for aid, refused to help, telling her, “Acting is a pipe dream.” (Her brother remembers their father denying tuition.) A Juilliard spokeswoman said school policy prohibited discussing specific applicants.

Credit…Tara Reade, via Associated Press

Even so, Ms. Reade wrote, she won parts in Equity productions and was “cast as a dancer in the film ‘La Bamba.’”

She is not one of the two dancers named in the film’s cast list, but is among scores of extras shown dancing in bars and music venues. Her brother recalled her excitement when she was singled out to do a hop and a twirl, visible briefly onscreen as Brian Setzer plays “Summertime Blues.”

It was during that time that she was nursing her older half brother, Michael Enterline, through the final stages of cancer. He had become a father figure, she recalled in an interview last year, and his death was devastating.

Her acting hopes were fading, too, and she shifted her ambitions to politics while studying at Pasadena City College. In the winter of 1991, she landed an internship with her congressman, Leon E. Panetta.

Then she spotted the opportunity she had been waiting for: a job opening in the U.S. Senate, in the office of Joe Biden of Delaware.

Credit…John Duricka/Associated Press

Ms. Reade’s descriptions of that inflection point in her life are sharply, dramatically precise.

“As the plane descended into Washington, D.C., my Siamese cat, Cleo, meowed loudly from under my seat,” she wrote in a 2009 essay for The WIP, an international women’s site. She recalled the city lights reflecting in the airplane’s windows as “my new job as a Senate staffer lay ahead of me.”

She came in as a staff assistant whose primary responsibilities were sorting mail and managing interns.

In interviews with The Times last year, she described Mr. Biden’s office as dominated by “alpha males.” But her arrival also came as Mr. Biden was working to undo the reputational damage wrought by his leadership of the insensitive all-male questioning of Anita Hill during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas.

By 1993, Mr. Biden was crafting the Violence Against Women Act and going out of his way to empower women on his staff. It was an unwritten rule that the senator preferred male aides to do menial tasks like chauffeuring him or fetching coffee, former aides have said.

The Biden Senate world was populated by striving Type A’s, and had a small-c conservative culture in which Ms. Reade didn’t quite fit. Former aides remember her as prone to storytelling and oversharing personal information. She rarely socialized with colleagues after work.

Ms. Reade has described chafing at the Ivy League tilt of the staff, and arguing for more interns from state schools. But her workplace issues would grow exponentially, starting with what she has described as the uncomfortable shoulder rubs from Mr. Biden.

None of the nearly two dozen former aides The Times interviewed remembered seeing Mr. Biden touch Ms. Reade.

Credit…Tara Reade, via Associated Press

By her account, her problems came to a head with her refusal to serve drinks at a reception. A few days later, she said, Mr. Biden’s office manager, Marianne Baker, admonished her to dress more modestly — what Ms. Reade has described as one step in a campaign of retaliation.

Then, she says, when she met Mr. Biden in an empty Senate hallway to deliver his gym bag, he pushed her up against a wall, reached his hand underneath her skirt and penetrated her digitally.

Ms. Reade says she filed a harassment complaint to a Senate personnel office. She does not recall the date or the aide to whom she filed the complaint.

The Biden campaign said it could not locate documents that could shed light on Ms. Reade’s claims. Mr. Biden had called on The National Archives to release any pertinent documents, but it deferred to records-keepers at the Senate, who said they could not, citing privacy requirements. The campaign has refused to search for the record in Mr. Biden’s papers at the University of Delaware, saying nothing relevant is stored there.

What followed, Ms. Reade says, was effectively a demotion and freeze-out.

“I would get the silent treatment,” she said. “People looked at me like I did something wrong.”

She says she was removed, that April, from her position supervising the interns — which two of them recall — and her desk was moved to a windowless office.

Mr. Biden’s senior aides, Ted Kaufman and Dennis Toner, later gave her a month to find a new position, she says. Both men, as well as Ms. Baker, say they do not recall Ms. Reade or her charges against Mr. Biden.

There is some contemporaneous evidence that she complained of mistreatment while in Mr. Biden’s office.

As The Intercept reported in April, a woman living in California called in to “Larry King Live” in August 1993 to say her daughter had been working “for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all.” She did not say what that trouble was. Ms. Reade has previously said her mother, who has since died, called into the program after she told her about her experience.

Three years later, in divorce proceedings, her husband, Ted Dronen, said Ms. Reade had “related a problem she was having at work regarding sexual harassment in U.S. Senator Joe Biden’s office.” He did not say Mr. Biden had himself harassed her.

She had started dating Mr. Dronen, then working for Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota in the spring of 1993. As she struggled to find work — which she would attribute to being blacklisted by Mr. Biden’s office — Mr. Dronen helped her with money and eventually moved her into his apartment, he said in court papers.

And when his job required a move to North Dakota, Ms. Reade has written, the couple traded the capital for the “frozen tundra” of the Plains.

Credit…via Tara Reade

The years that followed were ones of deepening struggle, punctuated by spasms of violence.

In North Dakota, Ms. Reade quickly became pregnant. But when Mr. Dronen reacted to the news by “slamming things around the house,” she fled to stay with her mother in California, fearing for her safety, she wrote in a sworn statement in 1996.

The mother-daughter living arrangement ended speedily and rancorously, Mr. Dronen wrote in a sworn statement, and soon the couple was back together, on California’s Central Coast.

Ms. Reade found work as an aide for State Senator Jack O’Connell. But two people familiar with her tenure said she regularly failed to appear at constituent meetings. When confronted by supervisors, these people said, Ms. Reade would insist she had shown up when she hadn’t.

She and Mr. Dronen had married in late 1994, and as the complaints about her work continued, Ms. Reade confessed that she was having a hard time at home, these people recalled. She was given a lighter schedule, but when the behavior repeated itself, she and the office agreed to part ways.

Asked about that account, Ms. Reade said she left because the office was not accommodating to her family situation, and she sent The Times a letter of recommendation from Mr. O’Connell; one of the people familiar with her time there said he had written it as a matter of course, hoping the best for her despite the outcome.

There was indeed trouble at home.

On the night of Feb. 21, 1996, Ms. Reade said in a court document, Mr. Dronen “slammed me up against the wall with such force that my neck, arms, shoulder and back are bruised. He punched my stomach and upper chest with a closed fist.”

Public divorce records show that Mr. Dronen admitted to spousal abuse, and that Ms. Reade got a temporary restraining order.

During an ensuing custody battle, Ms. Reade said she feared Mr. Dronen would beat their daughter if left alone with her for too long.

An official evaluation attributed Mr. Dronen’s eruptive anger to a tumultuous childhood, but suggested that Ms. Reade was exaggerating the threat, describing her as having “personality characteristics that predispose her to dramatically respond to a variety of situations.” Ms. Reade’s fear for her daughter, the evaluator wrote, was based less on a realistic assessment of risk than on her “unresolved anger towards her ex-husband.”

Mr. Dronen did not dispute Ms. Reade’s account of the violence on Feb. 21, calling it inexcusable. But according to the court record, he asserted that Ms. Reade had previously hit him in the face and, at one point, made a false allegation to get his probation revoked, resulting in the issuance and then withdrawal of an arrest warrant. (Ms. Reade denied doing so in a court declaration, and said she never initiated violence.)

In short, Mr. Dronen declared, “abuse, sexual harassment and other traumatic incidents” in Ms. Reade’s life were the “underlying psychological reason” she was “making me out to be some sort of monster.”

Ms. Reade would go on, actually, to describe him as a potential murderer. Mr. Dronen’s probation officer, she told her friend Wendy Dale, with whom she briefly worked on a biographical project a few years later, had warned her that her life was in danger, and that she should flee the state and change her identity. (The probation officer declined to comment.) Later, Ms. Reade would write that she learned her ex-husband’s “DNA was collected by the F.B.I. for two missing women’s cases.”

Apparently because of his record with Ms. Reade, Mr. Dronen was in fact among scores of local men questioned in the disappearance of two local women, two people familiar with the investigation said. But within weeks in 1999, the police had traced the women’s murders to a convicted serial killer, Rex Allan Krebs; a senior investigator said DNA was used only sparingly and was not collected by the F.B.I.

Mr. Dronen declined to comment beyond a statement from a representative saying he did not want to relive that period of his life but wished Ms. Reade well.

By then, mother and daughter had headed north to Seattle, seeking refuge with a domestic-violence organization called New Beginnings.

Credit…via Tara Reade

Ms. Reade and her daughter had acquired new names and Social Security numbers in January 1998 under a program authorized by the Violence Against Women Act — the same law whose chief advocate had been Mr. Biden.

The newly renamed Alexandra McCabe secured a job as a victim advocate with the King County prosecutor’s office. She and her daughter lived in domestic-violence “safe houses” before settling into an apartment in the city’s Magnolia section.

By 2001, Ms. McCabe had enrolled at the Seattle University School of Law, where classmates recall that she struggled with some concepts and sought tutoring. She was so poor she had to borrow law books and occasionally brought her daughter to class when she couldn’t find child care. Her classmate Jenifer Robinson, who now practices law in Seattle, recalled her “heavy, dark sadness” and said it “appeared to be a real, genuine fear and was a huge part of her identity.”

She also harbored a secret. She had never obtained the undergraduate degree required for law school admission.

An Antioch University Seattle spokeswoman, Karen Hamilton, said Ms. McCabe had taken classes, but not enough to receive a degree; nor had she worked as an online instructor, as she claimed on résumés.

The law school, where she received a degree in 2004, has declined to comment on her status in light of that revelation.

After law school, Ms. McCabe took a job at the Snohomish County Center for Battered Women, where she was credited with creating a system to help victims navigate the courts.

But a legal career would not come together. She did not pass the bar exam and by 2006 was back in California, working in the domestic violence program at the YWCA of Monterey. Soon, she was also testifying as an expert in domestic-violence cases.

“She was meticulous and caring and sensitive,” said Ms. Ayres, her former co-worker and friend. “She always had that very calm demeanor about her. Her voice is such that it puts you at ease.”

But she frequently appeared at work late and had difficulty managing money as she tried to establish an upper-middle-class veneer for her daughter, Ms. Ayres said.

The two women had a falling out after Ms. Ayres, who had agreed to guarantee Ms. McCabe’s Pacific Gas & Electric account, received a bill of nearly $350, which included Ms. McCabe’s balance.

“She didn’t want to own it,” Ms. Ayres said. “She stuck me with the PG&E bill, and that was the last time I spoke to her.”

The YWCA job ended after Ms. McCabe and several other employees settled a lawsuit alleging various forms of discrimination by their superiors.

Another job, as executive director of a local animal shelter, would end after a couple of years amid concerns she was ill-suited for it, according to several people associated with the shelter.

Ms. McCabe was also running afoul of her landlord in Pacific Grove.

She had answered an ad in 2008 for a two-bedroom house, telling the landlord, Austin Chung, that she had little in the way of credit or references because she had escaped a domestic-violence situation. She appeared for her move-in without the full rent or security deposit.

“I knew it was a red flag, but I just walked right over it because she seemed so nice and I thought I could help a domestic-abuse victim and her daughter,” Mr. Chung said. “I put in new carpets for her, even repainted the bedrooms to their liking.”

Mr. Chung said he had to prod her to pay her rent, even after cutting the rate. Finally, feeling awful but fed up, he evicted her.

“She is the only tenant who ever made me weep,” Mr. Chung said. After she left, he recalled, Home Depot declared the carpets, damaged by her dogs and cats, a biological hazard.

Ms. Reade disputes his account of the condition of the house.

Ms. McCabe and her daughter moved across the bay, to Santa Cruz. By 2011, she had a new job as an adjunct professor at Hartnell community college in Salinas. She moved in with a new boyfriend, Edward Walker, with whom she hosted a radio show, “Soul Vibes.”

Her financial stresses, though, were growing. A bankruptcy filing from 2012 shows that Ms. McCabe owed her landlord $12,750 and was bringing in only $581 a month in government assistance. She was $400,000 in debt, largely in student loans.

Her relationship with Mr. Walker eventually came to an end after another instance of domestic violence. A neighbor told the police that Mr. Walker had physically abused Ms. McCabe and her daughter, The Associated Press reported, and he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. He was sentenced to probation, and the charges were later dismissed.

Ms. McCabe moved to the next town, Aptos, where she started two ventures: a dog-walking service and a nonprofit that distributed outdated or damaged pet food to needy families.

That made for an odd fit with her work as an expert witness. “Now you’re working for Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry,” a defense lawyer said pointedly when she testified in an attempted murder case against two women. Noting that Ms. McCabe had no certification in psychology or sociology, defense lawyers asserted that they did not believe she was qualified.

The judge overruled the objection. One of the defense attorneys, Roland Soltesz said in an interview that he decided not to press the issue after Ms. McCabe implied that, as a “legislative” aide in Mr. Biden’s office, she had worked on the Violence Against Women Act. Based on questions about her Antioch degree, he is considering a bid to reopen the case.

Ms. McCabe also volunteered at Pregnant Mare Rescue, a sanctuary for unwanted horses. There she fell in love with a foal, Charm.

She may have been broke, but she wanted to adopt him. The group’s founder, Lynn Hummer agreed to waive the $500 adoption fee, only to learn months later that Ms. McCabe had billed $1,400 in routine veterinary bills to Pregnant Mare Rescue.

She increasingly relied on the hospitality of strangers. Harriet Wrye and her husband, who knew a friend of Ms. McCabe’s, permitted her to move into a yurt on their property in Aptos. She would pay discounted rent and care for their horses.

“She confided in me a lot,” Ms. Wrye said, adding that “it was an irregular profile”: Ms. McCabe was caring and kind but also unstable and volatile, someone who did a good job with the horses but paid her $800 rent sporadically and asked for other financial assistance.

When Ms. Wrye and her husband decided to sell their house, they told Ms. McCabe she would have to move. She threatened to sue, and ultimately, Ms. Wrye said, “We had to pay her to leave.” That was in May 2018.

Asked about allegations that she had skipped out on rent, Ms. Reade wrote in an email, “I’m not going to wrestle in the mud with pigs.”

She moved to a rented room at a ranch owned by Kelly Klett, a lawyer who has worked pro bono for domestic-abuse victims. Ms. Klett, hearing Ms. McCabe’s history of abuse, used her truck to help her move. She offered her a reduced rent and lent her law books so she could study for the California bar exam.

“She knew that I had advocated for women in abusive situations,” said Ms. Klett, but in her time there, “she never once told me about all of these allegations that are coming out right now.”

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

When the rent at Ms. Klett’s ranch became too much, she moved north, to Grass Valley. Friends were retiring there and offered to rent her their guest apartment.

Ms. Reade — she had reclaimed her name, she says — was beginning to write her novel, “The Last Snow Tiger,” a political thriller about a friendship between a Wisconsin farm girl and her Russian-American neighbor.

At the same time, her online life was taking a sharp, pro-Russia turn. In 2017, on Twitter, she had shown support for the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. By late 2018, she was inveighing against “anti-Russian propaganda” in America.

“Why would a liberal Democrat support Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin?” she wrote in an essay on Medium. “Maybe it is because I believe he has saved the world from a large conflict on more than one occasion.”

She reposted that essay on the information-sharing social platform Quora, where she was following three accounts, all Russian-oriented, including those of a self-described former “Soviet propaganda executive” and a “Russian national-conservative” who has alleged that Ukraine’s anti-Moscow regime is a puppet of Mr. Biden.

She told visitors about a Russian man with whom she was video-chatting online.

The relationship was active when she made her first public accusations of harassment against Mr. Biden, according to two women who saw photos of the man, whom they took to be a love interest. Neither could recall his name. The relationship lasted through the summer, recalled one of the women, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

“She had a picture of a guy and said that they had been communicating,” recalled the other woman, Rachel Sabajo, a former housemate of Ms. Reade who confessed to developing a personal aversion to her. “I said, ‘Why Russia?’ And she said, ‘Putin is so dreamy, I really get him.’”

Ms. Reade denied having a romantic relationship with anyone in Russia, saying her online activity was part of her book research. She said Ms. Sabajo was trying to besmirch her, McCarthy style, because of personal animus, which she said Ms. Sabajo had exhibited through harassing messages. (Ms. Sabajo denied sending them.)

A close relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid becoming a target of online harassment, called the implication that Ms. Reade was somehow in league with Russia absurd, saying there was no interaction beyond innocent online chats as she explored Russian culture for her novel.

Ms. Reade was work-shopping the book in a writing group that included Don Rogers, the publisher of the local newspaper, The Union. After Lucy Flores, a former Nevada politician, published an essay recounting an uncomfortable encounter with Mr. Biden — he squeezed her shoulders and kissed the back of her head during an event, she wrote — Ms. Reade informed Mr. Rogers she had her own story to share.

That story, she told The Union, was about “power and control” in an abusive workplace. “I wasn’t scared of him, that he was going to take me in a room or anything,” she told The Associated Press.

And a friend who said she heard of Ms. Reade’s complaint at the time — she worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy but now supports President Trump — told Vox that Mr. Biden “never tried to kiss” Ms. Reade, and “never went for one of those touches.”

Ms. Reade’s account was in line with other public complaints against Mr. Biden and did not get wide coverage.

Yet she came under harsh attack online. Mr. Biden’s defenders dug into her digital history and, upon finding her praise of Mr. Putin and her Quora page, would use that — with no substantive evidence — to suggest she was a Russian plant. Ms. Reade taunted them, in turn.

Working with her friend Ms. Dale, she produced a comic video of a mock interview in which she denied being a Russian spy while speaking in a bad Russian accent and being offered a lunch of vodka and caviar.

Behind the scenes, there was new trouble. Ms. Reade had begun working as a field supervisor for the Census Bureau, but she left after clashing with superiors, whom she accused in a formal complaint of creating a hostile work environment and discriminating against her.

Her online embrace of Russia seemed only to intensify. After the release of the Mueller report documenting Russian meddling in 2016, Ms. Reade posted an essay that decried xenophobia and opened with the Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov quoting a proverb: “It is very hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not there.”

She was also finding common cause with Mr. Biden’s detractors on the left, many of whom supported Bernie Sanders and believed Russia had been unfairly maligned in coverage of the Mueller investigation.

Among them was Katie Halper, a left-leaning podcast host. It was on Ms. Halper’s show that Ms. Reade made the assault allegation.

This time, her story moved toward center stage, fodder in the online political wars.

Mr. Biden denied her allegation even as he defended her right to be heard, while his defenders took to Facebook and Twitter to highlight the change in her account and emerging accusations of deceit from her friends.

Republicans in turn accused Democrats of hypocritically ignoring the “believe women” battle cry of the #MeToo movement even as they gave a pass to the two dozen allegations of harassment and abuse lodged against Mr. Trump.

Ms. Reade, deluged with messages of encouragement and threat, was by turns timorous and combative.

She gained and then lost a high-profile lawyer, Mr. Wigdor, but quickly procured the pro bono services of a lesser-known consumer protection and civil rights lawyer, Daniel Hornal.

When The Times approached her to discuss details of this article, she referred reporters to Maria Villena, her public relations consultant, who asked for written questions. After The Times submitted them, the actress and #MeToo activist Rose McGowan posted them on Twitter, as an example, she said, of the newspaper’s “tactics.”

Ms. Reade also put The Times in touch with a number of supporters. Among them was a law school classmate, Joseph Backholm, who said she had told him about an assault by an unnamed senator when they were students together. Mr. Backholm has run an organization in Washington State that opposes same-sex marriage and has received funding from local donors to Mr. Trump.

Ultimately, Ms. Reade responded in a string of emails and text messages.

By coming forward about Joe Biden,” she wrote on Friday, “I have lost everything again, my job, my housing and my reputation. I have been called every vile name imaginable and presented as a monster by the media for daring to speak about Joe Biden and what happened. But I am free.”

Source: NY times

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