Joe Biden had a private conversation with Anita Hill, whose accusations of sexual harassment rocked the nomination hearing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that Biden led almost three decades ago, a spokeswoman for the former vice president said Thursday.
Biden has expressed regret for the way he handled Hill’s allegation when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His treatment of her harassment claim has been considered a vulnerability with female voters as he enters the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Biden announced his campaign on Thursday.
“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,” said Kate Bedingfield, communications director for Biden’s campaign. She declined to say when Biden and Hill talked or provide more information about their private conversation.
Hill, in her testimony before the committee in 1991, accused Thomas, who had been her boss, of sexual harassment, a charge he strongly denied. Members of the committee, all of whom were men, sharply questioned her account and GOP Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania accused her of lying. Thomas was later narrowly confirmed by the Senate, 52 to 48.
Biden said last month that he regrets that he “couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved.” In retrospect, he said, he should have held a hearing “where the tone and questioning was not hostile.” An aide to Biden declined to comment last month on whether he had spoken with Hill.
Hill’s treatment at the hearing, which was televised nationally, angered women around the country. The following year, 1992, became known as the Year of the Woman as four women were elected to the Senate and two dozen to the House of Representatives for the first time.
Biden offered a public apology to Hill in late 2017. Hill, now a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University, told Elle magazine last year that she hadn’t heard directly from him and that “there are more important things to me now than hearing an apology from Joe Biden.”
Hill didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Thursday.