In 1991, Anita Hill (AAAS/LGLS/HS/WGS) testified that she was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas, a then-nominee to the Supreme Court. At the time, Joe Biden was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and now, almost 30 years later, the 2020 presidential hopeful is facing criticism for the way he handled the hearings.
In an interview with The New York Times, Hill criticized Biden for not calling additional witnesses to support Hill and not stepping in when Hill was attacked during the hearings. Earlier in the month, Biden called Hill to discuss the 1991 issue.
During his appearance on ABC’s “The View,” Biden said that he is “sorry for the way she got treated… If you go back to what I said, and didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly.” He added that “I believed Dr. Hill; I believed what she was saying… There were a lot of mistakes made across the board, and for those, I apologize. We could have conducted it better, but I believed Dr. Hill from the beginning, and I said it.”
He continued by praising her for the work she has done, saying she is “responsible for significant changes, and she deserves credit for it.” He continued, “She’s one of the reasons why we have the #MeToo movement; she’s one of the reasons why I was able to finish writing the Violence Against Women Act; she’s one of the reasons why I committed… [that] there’d never be a Judiciary Committee I was on that didn’t have women on it,” he said. When asked about why he did not reach out to her earlier, Biden said that he did not want to “invade her space.”
According to Hill, she was dissatisfied with the conversation with Biden. She did not characterize Biden’s words as an apology and stated that she does not believe that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings. “I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you,’” she told The Times. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
“The focus on apology to me is one thing,” Hill told The Times. “But he needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”
Hill spoke about the larger problems facing women in a statement released by Wellesley College, which will host Hill as their commencement speaker on May 31. “We are experiencing a watershed moment in which women are making their voices heard throughout society — in business, politics, higher education and social movements,” said Hill in the statement. “Wellesley women are known for standing up for justice, and the class of 2019 is graduating into a climate that is challenging but offers so many possibilities for leadership. I am honored to mark this momentous occasion with the graduating seniors.”
According to The Boston Globe, Hill will deliver the commencement address at Wellesley College, a college that, according to College Factual, is 99.7 percent female. “Her voice has been prominent in academia, politics and in the media regarding gender, race, and equality,” read a statement by Wellesley College.
The print version stated that the author of this article was Rachel Saal. The correct author is Sasha Skarboviychuk.