Joe Biden on Anita Hill: ‘I don’t think I treated her badly’

Former Vice President Joe Biden and professor Anita Hill. (Photos: Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images; George Frey/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Joe Biden declined to apologize to Anita Hill when given the opportunity Friday morning, insisting that he did everything he could to help her during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s 1991 confirmation hearing.

Biden was appearing on “The View” for his first interview since formally launching his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Biden initially repeated a line he had previously used in discussing Hill, saying he was sorry for the things that happened to her when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Biden chaired. Hill claimed that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Department of Education, and she has said her treatment by Biden and other members of the all-male committee was unfair and condescending.

“I’m sorry for the way she got treated,” Biden said. “Look at what I said and didn’t say; I don’t think I treated her badly.”

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Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas testify for Senate Judiciary Committee
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Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas testify for Senate Judiciary Committee
FILE - This Oct. 11, 1991 file photo shows University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hill made national headlines in 1991 when she testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Now, more than 20 years later, director Freida Mock explores Hill's landmark testimony and the resulting social and political changes in the documentary "Anita." (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
(Original Caption) Washington, D.C.: Anita Hill's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to U.S. Senate.
(Original Caption) Washington: Professor Anita Hill is sworn-in before testifying at the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination. Miss Hill testified on her charges of alleged sexual harassment by Judge Thomas.
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receives councel from Charles Ogeltree while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, AUG. 28 -- FILE ** Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 1991, in Washington. Pointed questioning of nominees--and their frequent dodging and weaving in response--is a relatively new phenomenon in the confirmation of Supreme Court justices. Harlan Fisk Stone in 1925 became the first nominee to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it wasn't until the mid-1950s that thenotion of a nominee facing a line of questioners became more typical. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, Files)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill testified that she was "embarrassed and humiliated" by unwanted, sexually explicit comments by Thomas a decade ago. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas stands after spending the morning testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be associated justice of the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas? wife, Virginia, and Thomas? chief Senate supporter Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., stands by. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill's explosive allegations included graphic language and were carried live by many media outlets throughout the nation. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas receives a reassuring pat on the back from his chief Senate supporter, Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., left, after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. Thomas told the committee ?no job is worth what I?ve been through.? (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
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Biden reached out to Hill prior to launching his campaign, but the New York Times reported Thursday that Hill did not consider what he said to be an apology.

“Here’s your opportunity right now to just say you apologize, you’re sorry, we can clean this up right now,” said co-host Joy Behar, referencing the Times report.

“Look, I’m not going to judge whether or not she thought it was sufficient. I said privately what I said publicly: I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated, I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done, I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things.”

Critics have said Biden did not do enough to stop attacks on Hill, such as calling other witnesses who could have supported her account. During Friday’s interview, Biden said that one of the witnesses who could have helped Hill backed out of testifying at the last minute.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you,’” said Hill in her interview with the Times, noting she cannot support Biden until he takes responsibility for his conduct. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”

Biden was criticized Wednesday for waiting 28 years to contact Hill, only doing so as he was about to launch his campaign. During “The View” interview, Biden credited Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, as an inspiration for the “Me Too” movement.

Earlier in the show, Behar pressed Biden to apologize to the seven women who said he had hugged or touched them inappropriately. Biden at first said only that he was sorry the women he was trying to console misunderstood his gesture, and that it was his responsibility to try and understand how not to do that.

“Nancy Pelosi wants you to say, ‘I’m sorry I invaded your space,’” said Behar.

“Sorry I invaded your space,” echoed Biden, adding, “And I am sorry this happened, but I’m not sorry in the sense that I think I did anything that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate. It was inappropriate that I didn’t understand, that I assumed.”

Biden had previously declined to apologize to the women, emphasizing how he would try to do better with personal space. Hill mentioned the Biden accusers during her Times interview as well.

“The focus on apology, to me, is one thing,” Hill said. “But 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.”

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