Former Vice President Joe Biden expresses regret over the 1991 Anita Hill hearing. His suggestion is to start with an FBI investigation into allegations.
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced his candidacy for president on Thursday, has spoken with Anita Hill and expressed his regret for the way she was treated during the 1991 Supreme Court hearings on Clarence Thomas.
“They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country,” said Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield.
But the conversation wasn’t enough for Hill, who told the New York Times that she does not believe Biden understands the harm he caused to her in 1991 when she gave testimony alleging sexual harassment by Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee.
Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the contentious hearing, a source of criticism for the Democratic presidential candidate as he faces off with a wide pool of candidates vying for the White House. Biden drew scrutiny for the questioning Hill faced during the heavily publicized hearing. Critics said Hill was badgered by Senate inquisitors, particularly Republicans.
“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose,” Hill told the Times. She declined to call Biden’s words to her an apology.
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She continued, telling the Times, Biden “needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”
Criticism over the hearings have followed Biden and re-emerged in 2018 after Christina Blasey Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party as a teenager.
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Before Ford testified at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Biden told NBC News that he regretted how Hill was treated during the contentious hearings. During the hearings, Biden said he hoped Ford would not be treated like Hill. He also explained that Senate rules prevented him from reining in questions by other committee members during the Hill hearings.
“What should happen is the woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be, you know, abused again by the system,” Biden said at the time in an interview with NBC News. “What happened was she got victimized again during the process.”
The former senator from Delaware said too many of his colleagues “vilified” Hill during the 1991 hearings, and, “I wish I could’ve done more to prevent those questions, the way they asked them.”
Asked what he would tell Hill, Biden replied: “I’m sorry I couldn’t have stopped the kind of attacks that came to you … But I never attacked her, I supported her. I believed her from the beginning.”
Months after Kavanaugh and just weeks before he launched his presidential bid, Biden again found himself on the defense after a string of accusations from women claiming Biden had hugged, kissed or rubbed noses with them without permission.
Biden said April 3 he’d be more “mindful and respectful,” saying the touching was all about making a “human connection.”
Contributing: David Jackson; Associated Press
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