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Two men seeking high office are each newly accused of a decades-old incident of sexual misconduct. One of the accusations is unsubstantiated, while the other is supported at least by circumstantial evidence. One involved alleged attempted rape by a high-schooler, while the other involved alleged workplace rape by a powerful United States senator.

The New York Times publishes one of the accusations the day it is made but waits nearly three weeks to print the other. Can you guess which is which? Would it help to know that one of the men is a prominent conservative judge nominated to the Supreme Court, and the other is the presumptive Democrat nominee for president?

When Julie Swetnick, Michael Avenatti’s client, publicly accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, I was in my office at the U.S. Senate late on Sunday evening (my 41st birthday) preparing for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s scheduled testimony four days later to the Senate Judiciary Committee about her own allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh.


I was not surprised that the Times ran a story that night on Swetnick’s allegation, even though it required the extraordinary caveat that “none of Ms. Swetnick’s claims could be independently corroborated.” The existence of a new accusation against Kavanaugh was plainly newsworthy and might matter to senators as they considered Ford’s testimony.

But fast forward a year and a half to March 25 of this year, when Tara Reade accused Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993, when she was his young Senate aide and he was the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nearly three weeks went by before the Times first wrote about Reade’s accusation, on April 12.

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