The former vice president spoke with Teen Vogue’s editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth in an interview on Wednesday about how he could have handled the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas differently.
Biden has been an outspoken advocate for women for decades: He helped pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and, more recently, created the It’s On Us organization, which focuses on combating sexual violence on college campuses around the country.
The 75-year-old, however, has been widely criticized for how he handled Hill when she testified against Thomas during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in 1991. Many people believe Biden didn’t do enough to stand by Hill or shield her from attacks when she accused Thomas of sexual harassment.
Biden told Teen Vogue that he voted against Thomas at the time because he believed Hill’s story.
“I insisted the next election — I campaigned for two women Senators on the condition that if they won they would come on the Judiciary Committee, so there would never be again all men making a judgement on this,” he said. “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her. As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask.”
The committee reported Thomas’ nomination to the Senate floor without a recommendation, and he was narrowly confirmed on a 52-48 vote.
Biden recalled the three women the Senate committee had tried to subpoena to testify against Thomas.
“In retrospect, some, including Anita, think I should have subpoenaed them no matter what,” he said. “The reason I didn’t, I was worried they would come and not corroborate what she said and make ― I mean, Clarence Thomas only won by two votes. And we still thought we had a chance at beating him.”
He added: “I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology.”