Saturday, November 10, 2018

Anita Hill says Joe Biden ‘still hasn’t apologized’

Professor Anita Hill, the alleged sexual harassment victim at the center of a Supreme Court confirmation controversy in 1991, has a bone to pick with former Vice President Joseph Biden. As chairman of the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that recommended Justice Clarence Thomas for the high court, Biden has long been criticized for the way he handled Hill’s accusations, and his chairmanship of the hearing has come under additional scrutiny since the “#MeToo Movement” compelled society to reevaluate sexual harassment claims.

More than a quarter-century later, Hill says that she still hasn’t received a personal apology from Biden — and nor does she want one.

Apologies in order

“He said he apologized, but he hasn’t apologized to me,” Hill told a sympathetic audience at a University of Southern California sexual harassment conference on Thursday. The enthusiastic crowd answered Professor Hill’s revelation with cheers and applause.

Appearing at Glamour’s Women of the Year summit last year, Biden offered his apologies to Hill, saying that he was “so sorry that she had to go through what she went through” during the committee hearings. During an interview with Teen Vogue in December, the former Delaware senator sought to blame Republicans for Hill’s poor treatment, saying he owes her “an apology” for how GOP lawmakers on his committee questioned her.

“[M]y one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends,” Biden said. “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.”

A long time coming

Hill hasn’t bought any of Biden’s deflections. “The statute of limitations has run on an apology. I don’t need an apology,” she said. “But sometimes when the doorbell rings, and I am not expecting anyone, I think, could that be Joe Biden?” she joked, receiving roars of laughter from her student audience.

Biden isn’t likely to show up on Hill’s doorstep any time soon. Barack Obama’s running mate is currently eyeing the White House in 2020, and would just as soon have America forget about his role on the judiciary committee.

Biden failed to subpoena at least three other potential witnesses who could have reinforced Hill’s testimony in the days after her televised appearance. Biden told CNN in April 2016 that he would have preferred more witness testimony, but time constraints simply wouldn’t allow for it.

When the ultra-liberal premium cable channel HBO produced a historical docudrama in 2016 covering the hearing, Biden’s office allegedly pressured the network to portray him, played by Greg Kinnear, in a positive light — and there is certainly evidence that HBO may have acquiesced. Throughout much of the film, as Biden mulled over how to conduct the hearing, he is unbearably distracted by a gnawing toothache.

The premise, it seems, is that Biden would have given Ms. Hill a fair hearing but for his persistent tooth pain. He just wanted the committee to end so he could nurse his oral fixation, the pro-Obama network suggests. The single, overly-dramatic moment when Biden decides to take a stand for Hill is when he is alone with a GOP lawmaker in a public restroom, a fictionalized recreation where Biden implored his colleague to just “tell the truth.”

A fair process

Hill seems to have different memories of the hearings. “I expected a fair process. If you file a sexual-harassment complaint in an office, what you find in the best instances is a neutral investigative process,” she said. “That never happened.”

“I did expect that the chair would be fair and gather the testimony from the relevant witnesses, like the three women who were not called in to testify, like the experts on sexual harassment that could have helped inform the committee about how the problem manifests itself,” Hill recalled.

Hill appreciates how far society has come since a Democratic-run judiciary committee treated her allegations seriously. However, she believes that America still has a long way to go.

Sexual assault “should be treated as a public health issue, a public safety issue, a business issue and a civil rights issue,” Hill said.

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