Joe Biden said Monday he takes responsibility for how Anita Hill was treated during her testimony against then-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings, said in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he “believed [Hill] from the very beginning, but I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing. 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,” Biden said in the interview.
Biden also said that he “apologized for it,” and that “I apologize again because, look, here’s the deal. She just did not get treated fair across the board. The system did not work.”
The interview, the entirety of which aired Tuesday, is Biden’s latest attempt to grapple with the controversial episode from his lengthy Senate career, now under renewed scrutiny amid his presidential campaign launch and newly considered through the lens of the #MeToo movement.
On the day he entered the White House race last week, Biden’s campaign said that he had spoken to Hill about the hearings and expressed “regret,” but declined to specify when the two had spoken and did not offer an explicit apology.
Hill addressed the subject herself in an interview with The New York Times published that same day and called Biden’s statement of regret inadequate.
“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 that there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
Biden then confronted the subject again in an interview on “The View” Friday, saying he was “grateful” that Hill took his call and that he regretted how her testimony unfolded, saying “there were a lot of mistakes made across the board. For that, I apologize.”
“I’m not going to judge whether or not (the call) was appropriate, that she thought it was sufficient,” Biden told the panel, “but I said (to Hill) privately what I’ve said publicly: I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated. I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done. I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things.”
Biden has also been accused by several women of making them feel uncomfortable or awkward with the way he touched them.
He has not outright apologized, saying he’s sorry but not in “the sense that I think I did something that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate.”
In the interview with ABC News, Biden’s wife, Jill, came to his defense, saying in the 44 years she’s known her husband she hadn’t heard negative comments.
“What you don’t realize is how many people approach Joe. Men and women, looking for comfort. But going forward, I think he’s going to have to judge, be a better judge of when people approach him how he’s going to react. That he maybe shouldn’t approach them,” Jill Biden told ABC’s Roberts.
She added, “I hadn’t heard negative comments, but now’s a different time. Women, men are in a different place now and so we have to honor that,” she said.
Jill Biden also said she’s faced situations in the past where a man made her feel uncomfortable but didn’t speak up.