Neither Tara Reade Nor Joe Biden Should Take a Polygraph “Test”

Former Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade

In an interview with Tara Reade, who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993, Megyn Kelly asked Reade (at 37:37) if she would be willing to take a polygraph “test”:

Kelly: If I can just go back for one second to Blasey Ford.
Reade: Yes.
Kelly: Because we mentioned her—
Reade: Yes.
Kelly: —and we were talking about Believe All Women. Some of those who supported her, but have now found a reason not to support you say well, she was under oath. Would you go under oath?
Reade: Absolutely.
Kelly: They say, “well she subjected herself to cross examination.” Would you do that?
Reade: Absolutely.
Kelly: They also point out that she took a polygraph, controlled by someone on her team. Is that something you wanna do?
Reade: I’m not a criminal. Joe Biden should take the polygraph. What I would say is that they’re not admissible into court, one. Two, Blasey Ford sup— took one? Is that true, I believe? That’s what I understand. But what kind of precedent does that set for survivors of violence? Does that mean we’re presumed guilty, and we all have to take polygraphs? So I’m just putting it out there. So I will take one, if Joe Biden takes one. But I’m not a criminal.

Megyn Kelly, a graduate of Albany Law School, should know that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis and that polygraph chart readings are without evidentiary value, yet she used the question about the polygraph to tease the interview.

Tara Reade, a graduate of the Seattle University School of Law should also (and evidently does, at least to some extent) understand that polygraphs are bogus. Joe Biden, a graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law, should also understand this.

Rather than suggesting that Joe Biden should take a polygraph, it would have been better if Reade had simply stated “No. No one should have their candor assessed by pseudoscientific means.”

Kelly made reference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s polygraph concerning her sexual assault allegation against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As a psychologist, Blasey Ford should have well understood that polygraphy is pseudoscience. Her pro bono lawyers, who urged her to sit for the polygraph and arranged it, should also have understood this.

It can be reasonably inferred that Blasey Ford’s polygraph was conducted as a public relations move: because the U.S. public has for many decades been conditioned by popular media and government agencies to believe that the polygraph is capable of detecting lies, a passed polygraph “test” can help to bolster one’s credibility with those who don’t understand that it’s junk science.

In the end, however, Blasey Ford’s polygraph did not significantly help her credibility and instead likely hurt it. Her lawyers refused to release her polygraph charts or a recording of her polygraph session so that it could be independently reviewed, raising questions. Moreover, it led to her being questioned under oath about whether she had ever given anyone tips or advice on taking a polygraph. She denied having done so, but her denial was contradicted by an ex-boyfriend who stated that he saw her coach a friend about what to expect during an FBI pre-employment polygraph.

Joe Biden’s legal team could, like Blasey Ford’s, arrange for him to take a polygraph “test,” perhaps even employing the same polygraph operator (retired FBI special agent Jeremiah Hanafin). As with Blasey Ford, the outcome would only be made public if he passed.

But who would find that convincing? Questions would immediately (and appropriately) be raised about polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings, about the fact that polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures, and about the polygraph operator having been hand-picked by Joe Biden’s team. The same kinds of questions would also arise were Tara Reade to take a polygraph.

In the nearly two decades that has been online, we have not come across a single instance where an important public question was solved by dueling polygraphs.

Both Joe Biden and Tara Reade are well-advised to unapologetically reject any demand for a polygraph.

The Podcast: Episode 1 – Polygraphs and the Kavanaugh Nomination

In this episode, podcast host George Maschke discusses Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s polygraph examination in connection with her allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, critical journalism on polygraphy inspired by this development, a proposed polygraph dragnet at the White House, a recent interview of polygraph critic Doug Williams on the Lions of Liberty podcast, and’s 18th anniversary online. (Direct download, 7.9 MB MP3)

Show notes:

On Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh:

“California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault,” by Emma Brown. The Washington Post, 16 September 2018.

“Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation at Risk After Accusation by Christine Blasey Ford,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg. The New York Times, 16 September 2018.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls on Brett Kavanaugh to take a lie detector “test.”

General reporting on polygraphy:

“Polygraph tests don’t work as lie detectors and they never have: It’s time to stop pinning our hopes on pseudoscience” by Eleanor Cummins in Popular Science.

“Why Do We Still Believe in Polygraphs?” by Alice B. Lloyd in the Weekly Standard.

“The Truth About Polygraph Tests: They’re junk science, inadmissible in court, and about as reliable as a pack of Tarot cards,” by Claire Berlinski in City Journal.

Senator Rand Paul Suggests Lie Detector “Tests” to Identify Author of New York Times Op-Ed

John Odermatt’s interview of polygraph critic Doug Williams on the Lions of Liberty podcast show, Felony Friday.

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