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Biden: Presume the ‘Essence’ of Sexual Assault Accusations Are ‘Real’

Former vice president Joe Biden is weighing in on the sexual assault debate.

While speaking to reporters at a reception at the residence of the Irish Ambassador to the U.S. on Monday, Biden said that any woman’s claims of sexual assault should be assumed to be true.

The statement came in response to questions about Biden’s thoughts regarding the sexual assault allegations leveled against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Biden, who was serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, said the allegations “bring back all the complicated issues that were there” in 1991. Earlier Monday, a spokesperson for Biden said he believed the vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination should be postponed.

The “issues” to which he was referring surround the allegations made by Anita Hill that Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her boss. While presiding over the hearings, Biden was criticized for allowing an all-white, all-male committee to question her. He later voted against Thomas’ confirmation.

On Monday, he added that he thought Hill was “telling the truth at the beginning. I really did.” But critics have suggested that at the time Biden didn’t do enough to control the questioning, which was explicit and personal.

Nevertheless, the lessons of that episode appear to have stuck with Biden, who told reporters Monday that “for a woman to come forward in the glaring light of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”

“But nobody fails to understand that this is like jumping into a cauldron,” he said.

On Tuesday, Hill offered her own thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearing in a New York Times op-ed. Noting that “it’s impossible to miss the parallels between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing of 2018 and the 1991 confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas,” and highlighting the ways in which the Senate failed the first time around, Hill called on the government to “do better.”

“‘Not getting it’ isn’t an option for our elected representatives,” she concluded. “In 2018, our senators must get it right.”