He told Teen Vogue that he wishes he had done more for Anita Hill during her sexual harassment testimony.
Since film magnate Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and assault in October, scores of women have come forward as part of the #MeToo movement to say that they too have been a victim of sexual misconduct. As more and more people come forward with allegations against powerful people, and some of those powerful people lose their jobs, some have called the moment in history a tipping point — others have called it a reckoning. And while many are being taken to task for their alleged misconduct, and there is potential for a cultural shift in the way we view sexual harassment and assault, this isn't the first time women have publicly spoken out against alleged harassers. In 1991, law professor Anita Hill sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by then-SenatorJoe Biden, and detailed the alleged harassment she experienced from her boss, who was just about to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice — Clarence Thomas. Throughout Hill's testimony, she weathered attacks on her character and her trustworthiness from those on the Senate panel, and many have blamed Biden for allowing those attacks and failing to do more. Nearly three decades after her testimony, and after Thomas was seated on the court, Biden wants Anita Hill to know that he's sorry.
In an interview with Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Elaine Welteroth, Biden said there are a few things he would do differently if he could go back and redo those Anita Hill hearings.
"I believed Anita Hill. I voted against Clarence Thomas. And I insisted the next election — I campaigned for two women Senators on the condition that if they won they would come on the Judiciary Committee, so there would never be again all men making a judgement on this," Biden said. "And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her. As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask."
But ultimately, Biden said he wasn't able to do enough.
"I wasn’t able to convince three women we’d subpoenaed to cooperate with testimony. At the last minute they changed their mind and said they wouldn’t do it. I had them sign an affidavit saying, 'I want you to come, and you’re saying, No, I will not come.’ In retrospect, some, including Anita, think I should have subpoenaed them no matter what," he said. "The reason I didn’t, I was worried they would come and not corroborate what she said and make — I mean, Clarence Thomas only won by two votes. And we still thought we had a chance at beating him."
"I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill," he said. "I owe her an apology."
Many, including Hill, have criticized Biden for allowing some of the remarks those on the Committee made, including insinuations that Thomas allegedly talking about women's breast sizes was "not too bad," according to theWashington Post. Some even said Biden's tone with Hill bordered on disbelief of her accusations. According to Politico, the hearing was "seen as Biden's subjecting an African-American woman to public humiliation and abuse." In fact, Biden has offered public apologies to Hill before, but she said it wasn't enough.
"I still don’t think it takes ownership of his role in what happened," Hill said in a recent interview with the Washington Post. "And he also doesn’t understand that it wasn’t just that I felt it was not fair. It was that women were looking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his leadership to really open the way to have these kinds of hearings. They should have been using best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women’s equality. And they did just the opposite."
"You cannot just bring people forward into a process where you know they’re not going to be treated fairly," she continued. "That’s not being heard."
In the Post interview, Hill said truly being heard is what women are grappling with today during the #MeToo movement. Biden told Teen Vogue something similar.
"We’re now at a point here where we have a chance to change the culture," he said. Biden was clear that harassment is a part of our culture, deeply ingrained and even normalized to a point where we sometimes don't even notice it. Through his work on college campuses and involving men in the effort to prevent sexual violence through his It's on Uscampaign, Biden said he hopes he's able to make some headway in the sea change that's clearly coming.
"I’ve gotten asked by press a lot of the last 23 years, how will I know when I’ve succeeded. We will have succeeded when not a single woman who is abused ever, ever, ever asks herself, 'What did I do?'" he said. "We’ve got to change it. We’ve got to change the culture." (http://ift.tt/2AkHjxP)