Biden spoke with Anita Hill, shared 'regret for what she endured'

Biden presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee when Hill accused future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
Image: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., points angrily at Clarence Thomas during comments at the end of hearings on Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in charge of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas in 1991. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is at right.Greg Gibson / AP file

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By Ben Kamisar and Mike Memoli

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed "regret" during a conversation with Anita Hill, the woman who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court nomination process.

Hours after Biden entered the 2020 presidential race, his campaign confirmed that the conversation between him and Hill took place.

"They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told The New York Times, which reported that the call happened earlier this month.

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Biden has faced criticism in recent years over his handling of Hill's accusations, particularly as the national conversation on sexual harassment and assault has evolved. Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Thomas confirmation process in 1991.

During comments at an event last month, Biden praised Hill's "courage" and expressed regret when recounting presiding over Thomas' confirmation hearing.

"She faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved given the kind of courage she showed reaching out to us,” he said.

“It took a lot of courage to damage her own career and her own reputation in the face of a cultural bias that if a woman was harassed or abused, she must have done something to deserve it."

Hill, a law professor who worked under Thomas at two federal agencies, told The New York Times in an interview Wednesday that she was “not satisfied” with her conversation with Biden.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying 'I’m sorry for what happened to you.' I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose,” she told the newspaper.

“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.”