CNN will air “Fight for the White House: Joe Biden’s Long Journey,” a two-hour documentary hosted by CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, on September 7 at 8 p.m. ET.
Anita Hill never pictured herself voting for Joe Biden.
But given the political reality the nation is facing, she’s not only going to vote for Biden – she’s also willing to work with him, should he become president.
“Notwithstanding all of his limitations in the past, and the mistakes that he made in the past, notwithstanding those – at this point, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I think Joe Biden is the person who should be elected in November,” Hill told CNN’s Gloria Borger. But it’s not just because he’s running against Donald Trump, she adds. “Its more about the survivors of gender violence. That’s really what it’s about.”
And if that means voting for and working with Joe Biden, then “so be it.”
“My commitment is to finding solutions, and I am more than willing to work with him,” Hill said. She’d like to work on issues of sexual harassment, gender violence and gender discrimination.
Hill and Biden have a troubled history dating back nearly three decades: In 1991, Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and oversaw the confirmation hearing of then-US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill was the star witness, testifying that Thomas sexually harassed her when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas denied the allegations.
Hill said those hearings permanently altered her life.
For Hill, the public declaration of a willingness to work inside government is a sea change.
“One of the impacts of 1991 was my desire not to really work with the government in any way,” Hill said. “I always said, I think I can be more effective as an outsider, as opposed to an insider. And now, I’m willing to evolve myself, to work for change inside.”
Hill insisted this is bigger than her – and bigger than Biden.
“What drives me is the people who have experienced [those issues] and the people who will be experiencing them, if we don’t do something about it,” Hill said. “That is what has opened me up to do something that I probably would not have said I would do a year ago.”
As the chairman, Biden has long defended himself against complaints that he didn’t take Hill’s allegations seriously enough, and that he didn’t step in to intervene when the hearings devolved into a circus-like atmosphere in which Hill was humiliated. The panel of all-male senators grilled her on her accusations in painful detail, and they called into question her own personal character.
“I believed her story from the very beginning,” Biden told CNN in an exclusive 90-minute interview in July. “I wish I could have protected her more. … I did get in shouting matches, as you’ll remember, with some of the witnesses who were saying things that were off the wall.”
Hill says she believes Biden lost control. But Biden maintains he did not allow his Republican colleagues to take over the hearings.
“I don’t think I did,” he said. “I wish I could have done it differently under the rules. But when it ended, I was determined to do two things. One, make sure never again would there not be women on the committee. … And I was determined to continue and finish writing and passing the Violence Against Women Act.”
Biden said he has apologized to Hill. The two spoke on the phone shortly before Biden launched his presidential campaign in April 2019.
After the call, Hill told The New York Times she would not characterize it as an apology. She still hesitates to use that word to describe it.
“An apology, to be real and sincere, has to take responsibility for harm,” Hill told CNN. That’s not what she heard when she spoke to him at the time. She wanted to hear him acknowledge the harm done to victims of sexual harassment. “He didn’t take responsibility. He didn’t hold himself accountable in any way, except that he was sorry that I felt I wasn’t treated fairly. He didn’t take ownership of his own role as chair of the committee.”
She called the conversation “unsatisfying.” After that call, Biden told ABC’s Good Morning America that he acknowledged his role as chairman in her treatment.
“As the committee chairman, I take responsibility that she did not get treated well. I take responsibility for that,” Biden told ABC in April 2019.
Hill was listening. She now says she believes he’s evolved.
“There was a statement about ‘I take accountability; I hold myself responsible for the way the hearing was run,’” Hill said. “And so that, I think, is as close as we’ve gotten, you know, and that’s good. That’s an opening.”
And that is something Hill says she’s willing to work with.
“I want the next president to be somebody that I can go to and talk about the real issues that women, men, and non-binary people are experiencing with violence in this country, that’s directed to them because of their gender,” Hill said. “I believe that Joe Biden would be that person. I do not believe that Donald Trump would be the person who would hear me.”