Joe Biden condemns ‘white man culture’ and says he regrets his role in Anita Hill hearings

Potential 2020 presidential candidate says Ms Hill 'paid a terrible price' for bringing sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas 

Lisa Lerer
Wednesday 27 March 2019 10:22 GMT
Joe Biden says he regrets not giving Anita Hill 'the kind of hearing she deserved'

Joe Biden condemned "white man's culture" as he apologised for his handling of Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas in 1991.

In an emotional speech on Tuesday, Mr Biden said he recognised the part he played in the aggressive questioning that Ms Hill faced during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Speaking at at an event in New York City honouring students who helped fight sexual violence on college campuses, he said: “She faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell this was all about.

"To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something.”

His speech rang hollow to some on social media Tuesday night, who noted that Mr Biden, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had considerable influence over how the hearing was conducted.

Although Mr Biden would enter the 2020 presidential race as a front-runner, 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.

He has positioned himself as a fierce opponent of sexual violence in the three decades since the hearing, saying he voted against confirming Mr Thomas.

He also vowed “never again” after witnessing the racist and misogynistic backlash faced by Ms Hill, who is African-American, as a result of her testimony.

Ms Hill, he said Tuesday, was a “brave lawyer” who was forced to testify before “a bunch of white guys” and paid a “terrible price” for it.

Mr Biden touted his work on the Violence Against Women Act, campaigns for female candidates who later joined the Judiciary Committee and work to curtail campus sexual assault as vice president.

The sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which dominated his confirmation hearings last fall, and the attention paid to the #MeToo movement, transformed sexual harassment and assault into a campaign issue for Democrats during the midterm election.

Both as candidates and voters, women powered much of the party’s gains, fuelling a desire in some quarters for a female candidate at the top of the ticket.

Mr Biden decried the Kavanaugh hearings, arguing that the “white man’s culture” of the country’s most powerful institutions must be changed to give women’s voices greater power.

“In almost 30 years, the institutional culture has not changed,” he said. “That diminishes the likelihood that women will come forward.”

New York Times

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in