Joe Biden Regrets the Handling of Anita Hill’s Hearings

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is mulling whether to embark on a presidential campaign next year, said on Tuesday evening that he did not give Anita Hill “the hearing she deserved” almost three decades ago, following allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. “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 told attendees 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 was the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman during Thomas’ nomination. He said Hill, an African American attorney and professor, should not have dealt with a panel of “a bunch of white guys.” Biden also hit out at the “white man’s culture” in reference to domestic violence cases in the early 1900s, and asked Americans to reverse this trend.

"In the 1900s so many women were dying at the hands of their husbands because they were chattel, just like the cattle, or the sheep, that the court of Common Law decided they had to do something about the extent of the deaths,” he said. “You know what they said? No man has a right to chastise his woman with a rod thicker than the circumference of his thumb. This is English Jurisprudential culture, a white man's culture. It's got to change. It's got to change.”

Biden has long faced criticism for his role during the televised Senate hearings in 1991, when Hill said she was sexually harassed by Thomas — her supervisor at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Biden’s role in the hearings is considered a political challenge as he weighs a presidential bid in 2020, and his remarks on Tuesday evening sparked criticism on social media, according to Associated Press.

“Love you Joe but you were in a position to do better — and you didn’t,” actress and political activist Mia Farrow said, adding that his handling of the hearings was “shameful,” the news outlet noted. Jess Morales Rocketto, former aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, reacted to Biden’s confession. “It literally does not matter what else Biden says about sexual assault if he cannot acknowledge his own culpability in putting a sexual assaulter on the Supreme Court and then pretending for years like he was powerless to stop it,” she tweeted.

But others came to Biden’s defense. The View’ co-host Meghan McCain said on Wednesday morning that it’s “dangerous when we use today’s standards by 27-years-ago standards. People can learn, they can evolve, they can change.” She said that “if Democrats cannibalize each other, it’s exactly what Trump wants.”

Ana Navarro, also a co-host of The View, said it’s upsetting to see “public mea culpa” as part of the Democratic “apology tour.” “Stop apologizing in public. Call Anita Hill and get to campaigning,” she added.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.