In the months since she came forward with a sexual assault allegation against former Vice President Joe Biden, former Santa Cruz resident Tara Reade has faced increased scrutiny.
As reported by GT last month, Pregnant Mare Rescue owner Lynn Hummer has accused Reade of being a persistent scammer, with an account corroborated by Aptos attorney Kelly Klett. Reade downplayed those accusations to GT, choosing not to address them directly. “Some particularly ugly sections of the national press came to my community to dig up as much dirt as possible and spread it across the whole country,” she says via email.
Reade adds that she isn’t sure when or exactly how exactly her relationship with Klett soured, as the two were exchanging pleasant Facebook messages as recently as last year. Things were more complicated with Hummer, about whom Reade declined to say much, other than how she remembers the nonprofit owner being cruel around the time that Reade’s mother died in 2016. Hummer says she knows what Reade is referring to, but says that Reade has exaggerated the details to make the events sound more dramatic. This was around the same time that the dust-up over a horse doctor bill for Charm came to a head. Each of the women says they don’t want to get pulled down into the mud at the other one’s level.
Some Monterey Bay locals, however, have come to Reade’s defense.
“Tara was always kind. She was a good listener. There were many times we would get into conversations about what I was going through or what she was going through. She’s always been an animal lover,” says local horse trainer Genae Kindscher, whose mother Gina shared similar sentiments with Politico last month.
Kindscher never heard Reade speak of Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States, but she believes her friend.
Reade, who still owns the horse named Charm that she adopted from Watsonville’s Pregnant Mare Rescue, says she has fond memories of her time in Santa Cruz. “Santa Cruz is a beautiful place, and I was so fortunate to live there,” Reade, who lives in northern California, writes via email. “The beaches are a treasure for everyone. The arts and music culture is so fun too. I will always consider Santa Cruz one of my favorite places.”
Reade says she is worried that the treatment she’s gotten from the media will make the decision that much harder in the future for victims who think about coming forward with their stories.
She notes that she doesn’t have her own public relations team to counter Biden’s publicists and supporters, including the pro-Biden Krassenstien brothers, who initially broke the story about Hummer on Medium.
“It’s really hard that people are going to tear me apart. But it doesn’t change what happened. This happened in 1993. I was harassed, and I was assaulted, and history will look back on the journalism from this time and judge it,” she tells GT by phone.
Overwhelmed by threats and online harassment, Reade says she is “a poster child for why victims don’t want to come forward.”
“This is destroying my life,” says Reade, who did not speak with GT for our initial story. “I’m not suing Biden. I’m obviously not having any effect on his campaign. His campaign is fine. I tried to come forward in 1993 and in 2019 and now. I just hope it gets easier for the survivors.”
Some former acquaintances of Reade have taken calls from a private investigator and spoken with him. Hummer says the investigator wouldn’t say who his client was, although he insisted it wasn’t the Biden campaign.
Reade was born locally and has other ties to the Monterey Bay. As GT reported, Reade served as an expert witness in domestic violence cases in Monterey County.
More recently, Monterey County Weekly reported that Reade had a long history as an expert witness in such cases, getting called to testify in at least 20 cases over a ten-year span, according to one court transcript.
Two weeks ago, CNN reported that Reade lied about obtaining a degree from Antioch University. That opened up questions about whether Reade had misrepresented herself on the witness stand and also prompted defense attorneys to begin reviewing convictions that had been obtained with Reade’s help. On May 21, Reade’s attorney Douglas Wigdor—who provided GT with comment for our initial story—announced that he was no longer representing Reade. On May 26, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced an investigation into whether Reade had lied under oath.
Reade has gotten a new lawyer, and she says she’s looking into what she says is a miscommunication with Antioch University. Whatever happened with her undergraduate education, it did not stop her from enrolling at Seattle University School of Law and graduating, although she never became a lawyer.
Some have questioned elements of Reade’s story that have evolved over time—most notably how she initially claimed to be a victim of sexual harassment at the hands of Biden and then later came forward with claims of sexual assault in a semiprivate Senate hallway. Biden has denied all Reade’s claims. Reade says it took a long time before she felt comfortable going public with her full experience about Biden and even longer for the media to start listening.
Some skeptics have pointed out that Reade praised Biden’s work on preventing violence against women and boasted about her own part in crafting that legislation—perhaps even inflating her role. Some have asked why a victim would talk so positively about their own abuser. It’s perhaps a cruel twist of irony that Reade, in her days as a domestic violence expert witness, testified about the complexities behind why abuse victims often lie and defend their abusers for so long.
On Monday, the New York Times released an in-depth article detailing much of Reade’s life story. A culmination of more than 100 interviews, it featured many perspectives—aggrieved acquaintances who say that Reade never repaid her debts, a classmate who saw Reade’s sadness, friends who knew her kindness, those who believe her, those who don’t. “In the dramatic retelling of her life story, she has also shown a tendency to embellish,” the Times wrote.
The Washington Post interviewed Intercept Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim, who was instrumental in pushing journalists to take Reade’s story seriously. Grim stands behind that decision. He would not say whether he personally believed Reade’s allegation.
“That’s the wrong question to ask,” he told the Post. “The question for the media should be, ‘Do you believe she has a right to be heard?’ I think we in the media should continue to report out her story. Our job is to put the evidence in the public domain and let the public decide what to do with it.”