Biden on Anita Hill: I regret not being able to give her the hearing she deserved

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is weighing a presidential bid, said Tuesday evening that he regretted the handling of Anita Hill’s Senate hearing in the 1990s when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

“A brave lawyer, a really notable woman, Anita Hill, a professor, showed the courage of a lifetime talking about her experience being harassed by Clarence Thomas,” Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Thomas’s nomination, said Tuesday at The Biden Courage Awards in New York. “But she paid a terrible price. She was abused in the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something.” 

Biden said that while laws have changed to protect woman from harassment and discriminatory conduct, a larger cultural shift is needed for women to feel comfortable coming forward with allegations.

{mosads}“There were a bunch of white guys … hearing this testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee. So when Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell it was all about. And to this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved given the courage she showed by reaching out to us,” Biden added, noting that he ultimately opposed Thomas’s confirmation.

“We all have an obligation to do nothing less than change the culture in this country,” he added. “A white man’s culture, it’s got to change. It’s got to change.”

Biden’s treatment of Hill when he chaired the Judiciary panel during Thomas’s confirmation hearings could become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary, especially in the age of the “Me Too” movement. Sources have told The Hill that Biden is almost certain to enter the 2020 race.

Biden has since said he regrets the way the hearing was conducted, specifically citing the tone of the questions that were posed to Hill.

“I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill,” Biden told Teen Vogue in an interview published in 2017. “I owe her an apology.”

“I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions and the way they asked them,” he added in September. 

Hill, now a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University, has said Biden’s remorse does not make up for her treatment in the 1991 hearing. 

“He said he apologized, but he hasn’t apologized to me,” Hill said last year. “The statute of limitations has run on an apology. I don’t need an apology.”

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