Former Vice President Joe Biden finally admitted it was “my responsibility” that law professor Anita Hill “did not get treated well” during a 1991 Senate hearing on her sexual harassment allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
“I was chairman of the committee. I believed her from the very beginning. But I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing. She did not get treated well. That’s my responsibility,” Biden, the newest 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” taped Monday and airing Tuesday. “As the committee chairman, I take responsibility that she did not get treated well. I take responsibility for that.”
As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden famously did not allow testimony from several other women who could have corroborated Hill’s claims. In the years since ― especially after the Me Too movement took hold ― he had repeatedly failed to take personal responsibility for Hill’s mistreatment, and his numerous botched attempts at apologies generated criticism from Hill herself.
Biden often had framed previous comments in the passive voice, such as “I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated.” Hill said the explanations dodged “his role in what happened.” She renewed her criticism in a New York Times interview published Thursday, the day he announced his 2020 campaign.
“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Hill said. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
The next day, Biden returned to the subject with language similar to what he’d used in the past.
“I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated,” Biden said on “The View.” “I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done. I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules.”
“The View” co-host Joy Behar pointed out what Biden could have said.
“I think what she wants you to say is, ‘I’m sorry for the way I treated you,’ not for the way you were treated,” Behar told Biden. “I think that might be closer.”
“I’m sorry [for] the way she got treated,” Biden replied. “I don’t think I treated her badly.”
Hill did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s latest apology.
Biden, in the “Good Morning America” interview, continued to defend his record promoting women’s rights. Asked if he would select a female running mate, which several male 2020 candidates have pledged, Biden said the question was “presumptuous.”
“It would be a government that would represent everyone,” he said. “Who that would be if I were fortunate enough to win, I haven’t made that decision.”
Jill Biden, who also appeared in the interview, defended her husband against the multiple women who have alleged that he inappropriately touched them and invaded their personal space, and said he should learn to “be a better judge of” his personal interactions.
“I think what you don’t realize is how many people approach Joe, men and women, looking for comfort or empathy,” she said. “But going forward, I think he’s going to have to judge, be a better judge of when people approach him, how he’s going to react, that he maybe shouldn’t approach them.”
This article has been updated to include additional comments from the “Good Morning America” interview.