Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) weighed in on the sexual assault claim against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Sunday. Comparing the claims against Biden to those against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Whitmer said that not every claim is “equal.” She also told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she resented always getting asked about sexual assault claims, saying the issue reopens “old wounds.” Yet she did not hesitate to reopen those wounds when Christine Blasey Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
As Tapper asked about the claims against Biden and those against Kavanaugh, he noted that Ford did not have the same contemporaneous reports to prove that she told others about the alleged assault shortly after it happened. “You have spoken movingly that you’re a survivor of sexual assault yourself. Why do you believe Biden and not Kavanaugh? Are they not both entitled to the same presumption of innocence, regardless of their political views?” he asked.
“You know, Jake, as a survivor and as a feminist, I’ll say this: We need to give people an opportunity to tell their story. But then we have a duty to vet it. And just because you’re a survivor doesn’t mean that every claim is equal,” the governor responded.
“It means we give them the ability to make their case, and the other side as well, and then make a judgment that is informed,” Whitmer said. She went on to insist that Biden doesn’t have a “pattern” of sexual assault. “I think that for these reasons, I’m very comfortable that Joe Biden is who he says he is.”
“I am very comfortable that Joe Biden is who he says he is … and that’s all I’m going to say about it,” she said, shooting down any further questions on the subject.
The governor even suggested that Tapper was forcing her to relive her own experience of sexual assault by asking her questions about Biden.
“I really resent the fact that every time a case comes up, all of us survivors have to weigh in. It is reopening wounds and it is, you know, take us at our word, ask us for our opinion, and let’s move on.”
Tapper, taken aback, insisted he was only asking Whitmer because she was the only Democratic guest on the show that day.
“And it’s not a criticism of you, Jake. You’re doing your job, and I appreciate that. I’m just sharing some of the simmering anger that we survivors have every time we’ve got to confront this,” Whitmer added.
Yet it seems Whitmer was all too keen on “reopening wounds” when it came to Brett Kavanaugh. Now, she wants to “move on,” but in his case, she said, “There’s no rush.”
Whitmer spoke out early and often in the Kavanaugh case. When President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Ford should have filed charges against Kavanaugh at the time, Whitmer joined in with many others in tweeting with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
She offered many reasons: “Because I was 18. I was scared. I didn’t think I’d be believed. I didn’t know where to go. I knew my assailant. I couldn’t break my parents’ hearts. I didn’t want to be defined by someone else’s violent criminal act,” the then-candidate tweeted.
Because I was 18
I was scared
I didn’t think I’d be believed
I didn’t know where to go
I knew my assailant
I couldn’t break my parents’ hearts
I didn’t want to be defined by someone else’s violent criminal act#WhyIDidntReport
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) September 22, 2018
She encouraged the FBI to investigate the claims against him, arguing for a delay in his confirmation.
“There’s no rush. These same guys left a seat open for a long time, just based on their political objectives,” Whitmer told Vice, referring to President Obama’s lame-duck Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. “We gotta do it right.”
None of this is to minimize the pain Whitmer likely went through as a victim of sexual assault, but it does appear she is weaponizing that history. She used her experience as a cudgel against Kavanaugh, and now she’s using it as a shield to defend Biden.
If Christine Blasey Ford — a liberal accusing a conservative — showed tremendous bravery in coming forward, didn’t Tara Reade — a liberal accusing a liberal — also show such bravery? Why isn’t Whitmer defending this accuser in the same way she did Ford?
Whitmer claims to know Joe Biden personally, and therefore she vouches for him. What about the 200-plus women who testified to Kavanaugh’s history of “treating women with respect”? What makes their testimony less reliable than hers?
Of course, Whitmer has been floated as a potential running mate for Biden, so perhaps she’s just trying to play her cards right. “Believe women” seemingly translates to “believe women … so long as they accuse Republicans.”
“We owe it to every woman who has a story to, to listen to that story and then vet that story… I don’t believe that it’s consistent with the Joe Biden I know and I do believe Joe Biden,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reacts to Tara Reade's allegation against Biden. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/5h0fvzgV4K
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) May 3, 2020
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.