Former vice-president and presidential candidate Joe “Jo” Biden did a new variation on his non-apology apology for his treatment of Anita Hill during the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over which he presided as chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee.
During an interview with Good Morning America, which aired in full on Tuesday, Biden told the show’s co-anchor Robin Roberts of Hill’s sexual-harassment accusations against Thomas, “I believed her from the very beginning, but I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing. She did not get treated well. That’s my responsibility … I take responsibility for that.” This marks the first time Biden has said “I take responsibility” regarding his handling of Hill’s testimony.
But Biden did not clarify whether he believes he, personally, mistreated Hill. For clues, we might look to his telling the hosts of The View just after the announcement of his candidacy on Friday, “If you go back and look what I said and didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly. I took on her opposition.” Taken together, these statements amount to Biden saying that he takes responsibility for failing to protect Hill fully, although it is still difficult to ascertain just what he believes he’s at fault for.
Furthermore, at a union in Pittsburgh on Monday (his first official campaign event), Biden insisted that he’d already apologized to Hill. “I apologized for it,” he said. “Hill just did not get treated fair across the board. The system did not work.”
The New York Times reported on Thursday that, anticipating criticism about his handling of Hill’s testimony, Biden got in touch with her through an intermediary a few weeks before he announced his presidential run; she told the outlet that she did not characterize what he said to her as an apology. (Biden’s team says that he expressed to Hill “his regret for what she endured,” which is not the same as communicating personal regret.)
Given the opportunistic timing, it seems there wasn’t much of a way to make amends in any case. And Hill told the Times that a personal apology on its own wouldn’t be sufficient anyway:
“The focus on an apology to me is one thing,” she said. “But there needs to be an apology to the other witnesses, and there needs to be an apology to the American public, because we know now how deeply disappointed women all over the country were about what they saw — and not just women. There are women and men now who are just — really have lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”
Biden’s discrete remarks this week and last remain a far cry from Hill’s request for comprehensive amends. I dunno, guys, I think Biden might not really be sorry!