Why Have the Big Late-Night TV Hosts Gone Silent on Tara Reade?
Colbert, Kimmel, Meyers and Noah have all repeatedly hammered Trump for his treatment of women and gone radio silent on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden.
On Oct. 8, 2016, almost a year to the day before The New York Times and The New Yorker would publish investigations into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s serial rape and sexual abuse that would ignite the #MeToo movement, the Washington Post ran a clip of then-presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. The hot-mic moment saw the reality TV host confiding in Access Hollywood sycophant Billy Bush, “I don’t even wait [to kiss women]. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Trump waved away the disturbing exchange as “locker-room talk.” The late-night shows, naturally, had a field day.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah cracked, “What kind of person grabs the pussy? That doesn’t sound pleasurable for either party involved. I don’t get it! Do you not know ladies? Maybe it’s a tiny hands thing.” The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert released a special reaction video from his den, calling it “disgusting” and “misogyny gold.” Late Night’s Seth Meyers branded Trump a “pervert” and “Creep Throat.” And Jimmy Kimmel, for his part, sent Donald Trump Jr. a clip of the tape during a Twitter spat.
In addition to the Access Hollywood tape, all of the aforementioned late-night hosts have repeatedly hammered Trump on his numerous sexual-assault allegations. Most recently, when columnist E. Jean Carroll came forward to accuse Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1980s (Trump claimed that it “never happened” because “she’s not my type”), they mobilized against him. Meyers said she was “courageously telling the truth,” while Noah argued, “If your denial leaves people thinking there is a type of woman that you would rape, that’s not a good denial.” Colbert even took the media to task for what he perceived as unfair coverage of the Carroll allegation—including The New York Times, joking that they included it in their ‘Books’ section because “they knew it was the one place the president would never look.”
So it’s disappointing to see them fail to apply a similar standard to Joe Biden.
It has been about a month since Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer in Joe Biden’s office, accused the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of sexual assault. According to Reade, in 1993 Biden pinned her up against a wall in a hallway, put his hands up her skirt, and digitally penetrated her without her consent. The allegation has since made national headlines, compelling an appearance by Joe Biden on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to deny the claim.
Among the late-night set, the only hosts to address the Reade story were HBO’s John Oliver and Bill Maher. And they did so in passing, with Oliver issuing a disclaimer of sorts that she “deserves to be heard” before moving on to the latest Trump scandal, and Maher, a noted #MeToo critic, dismissing it by saying he thought it was “ridiculous and that it would go away and no one would pay any attention to it.”
The big four politically inclined late-night hosts, however—Colbert, Kimmel, Meyers and Noah? Radio silence. Instead of addressing it on his popular Late Show program, Colbert relegated the Reade news to his new Tooning Out the News animated series, albeit in a rather playful bit poking fun at her upcoming interview with Megyn Kelly. “If we ‘believed all women,’ we’d have to also believe Megyn Kelly when she says Santa can’t be a proud black lesbian,” argues one of the animated anchors.
The Daily Beast reached out to representatives for Colbert, Kimmel, Meyers and Noah for comment on why they’ve tiptoed around the Reade story but none of them responded.
Perhaps there’s an argument to be made that these are comedians, and that the Reade allegation, horrifying as it is, does not make for good late-night comedy fodder. But that’s the mantle that these TV hosts have assumed in the Trump era. Following in the footsteps of Jon Stewart, they’ve regularly served the role of moral arbiter, providing analysis, commentary, and opinion on the latest scandals emerging from Trumpworld—including his misogynistic past. And, while they have on occasion condemned their fellow liberals for predatory behavior, Al Franken being a good example, there’s been a certain reluctance to wade into the waters.
I’m reminded of October of 2017, one year after the Access Hollywood tape crash-landed onto our screens. That week, the Harvey Weinstein news broke, forever altering the conversation surrounding consent and power. And that entire week, these late-night hosts, men who have gleefully denounced Trump’s nauseating treatment of women time and time again, refused to so much as utter the name “Weinstein.”
Sexual assault and abuse of power is an abomination, regardless of the political party it’s attached to. If these late-night hosts intend to use their millions-strong platforms to censure the Trumps and O’Reillys of the world, and cast themselves as outspoken allies of the #MeToo movement, then they shouldn’t hold back from holding their fellow lefties’ feet to the fire.