Anita Hill still blames Joe Biden for the Clarence Thomas disaster

Biden has been characterized as shortchanging Anita Hill's testimony involving sexual harassment during the hearing

Published November 22, 2017 1:33PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
(AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

While former Vice President Joe Biden may be mulling over a presidential bid in 2020, the women who remember his conduct during a key moment in the history of sexual harassment in America are pointing out how that aspect of his past could come back to haunt him.

Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, was responsible for allowing the brutal grilling of Anita Hill when she accused Judge Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her. Although he told a gathering at Glamour magazine that he was "so sorry" for his behavior toward Hill during the hearing, Hill said during a Washington Post event that while "some part of" Biden's remarks were genuine, "I still don’t think it takes ownership of his role in what happened."

Although Biden did succeed in getting a delay in the hearing so that Hill would have time to testify, other aspects of his conduct aroused more controversy. Here's what Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., had to say:

We went to see Biden, because we were so frustrated by it. And he literally kind of pointed his finger and said, you don’t understand how important one’s word was in the Senate, that he had given his word to [Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), Thomas’s chief sponsor] in the men’s gym that this would be a very quick hearing, and he had to get it out before Columbus Day.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., also recalled that while Biden may not have planned to attack Hill, he stood by and allowed his Republican colleagues to do so:

With the traditions of the Senate and the committee, Biden thought he was going to conduct a hearing, but the Republicans knew — led by Arlen Specter — that they were going to conduct a trial. And Professor Hill would be the one on trial.

Hill herself recalled Biden seeming to be unable to halt Republicans in their quest to besmirch Hill's character:

So much of the strategy of the Republicans that unfortunately maybe Biden didn’t see through — or just didn’t feel empowered to control — was to control the amount of information that got out about me. I was told by Chairman Biden that I would speak first. And at the last minute that changed.

Hill also criticized Biden's recent apology for saying that he was sorry if Hill "felt she didn’t get a fair hearing," which she compared to saying "I'm sorry if you were offended." She also noted that, while some of Biden's apology seemed genuine (particularly his unequivocal statement that he believed Hill's story and voted against Thomas's confirmation), she still felt that he had not been fair to her.

But you cannot just bring people forward into a process where you know they’re not going to be treated fairly. That’s not being heard. That’s something that we are struggling with right now. Women are coming in to make a complaint, and the process is unfair and employers are saying, “Well, we have a process.” Well, that’s not enough.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Anita Hill Clarence Thomas Joe Biden Sexism