Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 Senate hearing in which Anita Hill alleged sexual harassment at the hands of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. On Tuesday, Biden expressed regrets—and not for the first time—for his handling of the hearing. In what the New York Times calls an "emotional speech" given at the Biden Courage Awards in New York, Biden said Hill "paid a terrible price" in exchange for her courageous testimony. "She was abused in the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something." More on his comments and the reaction:
- The other lines getting attention: "There were a bunch of white guys ... hearing this testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee. So when Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell it was all about. And to this day I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved given the courage she showed by reaching out to us." Biden reiterated that he opposed Thomas' nomination.
- Not his first such comments: The Hill cites remarks Biden offered in 2017 and September 2018 that mirror Tuesday's; he expressed that he wished he could have done more for Hill and more to shape the form the questions took. Hill in 2018 noted she hadn't received a personal apology and that the "statute of limitations" for one had run out.
- The 2020 angle: The Times reports that while Biden would likely lead the Democratic pack should he enter the presidential race, "the legacy of Ms. Hill's testimony has complicated his path through a modern Democratic Party that has cast itself as a champion of women’s rights."
- More on that: Writing for CNN, Chris Cillizza echoes that big potential: Biden risks "coming off like Don Draper in a Peggy Olson world," as he puts it. Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, and Cillizza argues that while he's twice run for president, his voting history has never been put under the microscope. It's inevitable that his 2020 opponents will finally do that and proffer what they find as "evidence that he is simply not the right person to lead an increasingly diverse, younger and more female Democratic Party. His stewardship over the Thomas hearing and his vote in favor of the 1994 crime bill are the two most obvious examples of that problem, but there are and will be others."
- Could have done more: Splinter argues that in repeatedly expressing his regrets, Biden is trying to recast himself "as a well-intentioned bystander, rather than one of the main antagonists" during the hearings. It makes the case Biden actually could have done more had he wanted to, such as allowing other women with similar claims against Thomas to testify and welcoming affidavits from sexual harassment experts.
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