Professor Anita Hill says time is long past for a personal apology from former Vice President Joe Biden, over how things went when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 that she had been sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Biden, considered a potential candidate for president in 2020, chaired the committee during the hearings to confirm Thomas’ nomination to the high court, and has since been frequently criticized for the way Hill was treated during her testimony. A year ago during Glamour’s Women of the Year summit, Biden said that he was “so sorry that she had to go through what she went through” during the hearings, and later told Teen Vogue that “I owe her an apology” for not doing more to rein in attacks on her character by Republican members of the committee.
“He said he apologized, but he hasn’t apologized to me,” Hill said amid frequent applause and two standing ovations during USC Dornsife’s “From Social Movement to Social Impact: Putting an End to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” event Thursday afternoon.
“The statute of limitations has run on an apology. I don’t need an apology,” Hill continued. And yet. “But sometimes when the doorbell rings, and I am not expecting anyone, I think, could that be Joe Biden?” she joked, provoking roars of laughter from the audience of students and professors.
Biden, Hill says, keeps saying he “could have done more” to support her testimony in 1991, such as calling her supporting witnesses. Her retort now: “Yes, you could have!”
Representatives for Biden did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
Hill also criticized the decision by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite Prof. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. “It was a political decision,” Hill said of Collins’s vote. “I would have respected her more if she said, ‘this is a political decision.’”
Hill was troubled by Collins’s proclamation that Ford did not know who attacked her, and Collins’s statement that she is “100% sure” it was not Kavanaugh. “I resented that Sen. Susan Collins would tell Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that [the senator] would know who [Ford’s] assailant was better than [Ford] did,” Hill said.
Hill also criticized Collins for suggesting that the standard of “innocent until proven guilty” was the correct standard for Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings. That high standard is an important protection for criminal defendants, Hill said, but Collins “debased” that protection by saying the rule applied to a political process.
What kind of questions would Hill have asked Kavanaugh had she been on the Judiciary Committee when he testified? “How do you view your power? Do you view it is something that can be used as a weapon? Or do you use it as something that should be shared?” she said.
Hill added that she thinks much has improved in terms of the courts and society recognizing that sexual harassment is harmful and against the law, but says there is still much work to be done, such as exploring how sexual assault impacts the lives of transgender women of color and others who are not the stereotypical image of a rape victim – a young, attractive, white woman.
Sexual assault, she said, “should be treated as a public health issue, a public safety issue, a business issue, and a civil rights issue.”
Hill is a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University.