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Brandeis Prof. Anita Hill talks Trump, Biden on CNN Citizen

Brandeis Professor Anita Hill (HS) criticized President Donald Trump for comparing the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry to a lynching in a tweet on Oct. 22. Hill called the comparison “ludicrous” and “a divisive tactic” in a CNN forum on Oct. 24.

“The idea that this person with this kind of power and authority could co-opt this language on his own personal behalf is ludicrous and insulting,” said Hill at the conference. “We need to call it out for that. But we also have to go back to the reality that this is a tactic, it’s a divisive tactic to get people to push back on any kind of challenges.”

Trump’s tweet calls the impeachment inquiry unfair, stating, “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here—a lynching.”

A whistleblower’s complaint that Trump asked the government of Ukraine to investigate the family of presidential candidate Joseph Biden motivated the impeachment inquiry. The investigation was also driven by an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, not Russia, in exchange for military aid, according to an article from The Washington Post.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) is leading the investigation.  The committee is interviewing several witnesses, such as the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, according to the article. Impeachment could occur if Congress finds the president no longer fit to serve, which will happen if he is found guilty of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, according to article two of the constitution.

High crimes and misdemeanors don’t necessarily refer to a breach of the law, according to the previously mentioned Washington Post article, and are understood to refer to a violation of the oath of office. Clear evidence of a crime is not necessary for Congress to impeach, reads the article.

Hill called Trump’s tweet similar to statements made by the then-appointee to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, who Hill accused of workplace sexual harassment in 1991 during his confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court. Thomas called the claims of sexual harassment a lynching, said Hill, to limit criticism of his actions.

“It was a tactic,” said Hill. “It was an effort to push back any of the white men on that judiciary committee from objecting to him. It wasn’t sincere. It wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t real.”

Hill said that the comparison was also hurtful to her because it ignored her experience of race and racism as a woman of color. There was no narrative for the sexual abuse and mistreatment of black women, Hill said, and the confirmation hearing removed her from the narrative of racism despite her longstanding advocation for equal rights. 

Hill also spoke about Biden and his role in the confirmation hearings, which he called unfair and apologized for in March, according to a CNN article. Hill said she was ready to move on from Biden but is also ready to hold him accountable.

“Accountability means acknowledging your role in the problem and the harm that was caused, acknowledging that you have culpability in a part of it, giving me clear information that you have made a change and that you are going to do something to make us all better off around gender discrimination,” Hill said. “I do not only expect that from Joe Biden; I expect that from every candidate, regardless of their gender,” Hill said. 

Hill has not decided to endorse any candidate for the presidential election in 2020, nor has she ever endorsed a presidential candidate, she said. 

Hill spoke more broadly about gender and race discrimination, topics she teaches about at Brandeis in courses touching on gender, race, social policy and legal history. Hill said gender and race discrimination are tied together and that forms of discrimination cannot be separated.

“If we can say ‘OK, well, I’m not going to discriminate against you on the basis of your gender, but I am going to discriminate against this woman on the basis of her race,’ then we’re never going to get full gender equality,” Hill said. “You can’t parse it out and so we’re going to have to deal with a lot of other bias to get to full gender equality.”

She remained confident, however, that issues of gender, race and other forms of discrimination can be addressed, especially by younger generations. 

“They’re dealing with issues of sexual violence and harrassment on campus, and they’re also looking at the future,” said Hill. “They’re looking at a generation that sort of passed this all on to them, and I honestly believe that this is an issue that they are going to be energized behind… I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t hopeful.”

Citizen is a CNN speaker and panel discussion for leaders across “business and finance, technology, media, philanthropy, academia and non-profit sector,” according to its website. The conference is invitation-only but was covered by CNN and other media outlets.

In response to a Brandeis Hoot email request for comment, Hill said she would not be giving additional interviews at this time.

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