In an effort to preempt the criticism he was sure to face after announcing his presidential bid, Joe Biden reached out to Anita Hill earlier this month to express his “regret” for how she was treated during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, but failed to win ameliorate Hill’s concerns about his commitment to gender equality.
“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you,’” Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University told the New York Times in a Wednesday interview. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
Biden, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, presided over the hearings in which Hill accused Thomas of sexually assaulting her. The former Delaware lawmaker has since been heavily criticized for refusing to call witnesses who say they could corroborate Hill’s story and for allowing lawmakers to speak derisively to the witness.
As Hill sees it, Biden must now prioritize addressing gender violence if he is to atone for his role in the 1991 hearing, which she argued, created a precedent that allowed for Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed to the Supreme Court despite allegations of sexual assault.
“The focus on apology, to me, is one thing,” Hill said. “But he needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”
Biden’s campaign has refused to comment on the specifics of his call with Hill, but he has recently expressed regret that she was not treated fairly during the hearing.
“She paid a terrible price,” he said at an event in New York City last month. “She was abused through the hearing. She was taken advantage of. . . . I wish I could have done something. The hearing she deserved was a hearing where she was respected.”