Former Vice President Joe Biden is having trouble avoiding criticism for the role he played in the Anita Hill hearings.
Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 when Anita Hill testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. At the hearing, the committee, composed entirely of white men, aggressively interrogated Hill. Biden has been criticized for allowing the hostile questioning.
Since Biden announced his campaign last Thursday, he has faced criticism repeatedly about Hill’s treatment. In response, he has given a variety of answers. Last Friday on ABC’s The View, Biden apologized for how Hill was treated during the hearings: “I did everything in my power do to what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things.”
In that same interview, Biden also described the hearing as having a positive effect.
“She’s one of the reasons why we have the MeToo movement,” Biden said. “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 … After that was over, there would never be a judiciary committee I was involved with that didn’t have women on it.”
Although Biden did not claim personal responsibility for Hill’s treatment during that interview, he did so on ABC’s Good Morning America last Tuesday.
“She did not get a fair hearing,” Biden said on the show. “She did not get treated well. That’s my responsibility. As the committee chairman, I take responsibility that she did not get treated well. I take responsibility for that.”
Last week, Hill told The New York Times that she received a phone call from the former vice president. Although Biden personally apologized to her, Hill said that she was unsatisfied with the simple apology, and that she will only be content when there is “real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
Questions about Hill’s treatment plague Biden in a moment when he faces questions concerning personal space. Some women have spoken out about discomfort they have felt around Biden, during interactions Biden described as “friendly touching.”
However, these criticisms have not dampened his lead in the Democratic field. On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Biden as casting 38% of the vote, 26 points ahead of any other contender, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, the second highest candidate, who earned only 12% of the vote.