Joe Biden, who launched his third campaign for president on Thursday, told Anita Hill he regretted the way he handled her testimony against Clarence Thomas at the 1991 supreme court hearings but she was not “satisfied” by the conversation.
The former vice-president contacted her earlier this month to express his “regret for what she endured” during the hearing, an attempt to reckon with a defining moment from his past that looms over his present bid for the White House.
But in an interview with the New York Times, published hours after Biden launched his 2020 campaign, Hill said she was not satisfied with his outreach and declined to characterize his comments as an apology.
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“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” she told the paper. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
Biden, who was chairman of the Senate judiciary committee and oversaw the confirmation hearing during which she accused Thomas of sexual harassment, has previously apologized for allowing an all-male and all-white panel of lawmakers to aggressively question Hill.
His role in the hearing has come under fresh scrutiny in light of the #MeToo movement and the 2018 supreme court hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who denied accusations of sexually assaulting a woman when he was a teenager.
Hill, now a law professor, told the newspaper that she could not support Biden until he takes responsibility for his behavior.
“The focus on apology to me is one thing,” she 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.”
A spokesperson for Biden’s 2020 campaign confirmed his outreach to Hill.
“They had a private discussion where 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,” the spokesperson said.
Biden publicly addressed his treatment of Hill last month at an event in New York City honoring students who helped fight sexual violence on college campuses.
“She faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell this was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said at an event in New York City last month. “I wish I could have done something.”
Hill’s comments come as Biden defends himself against allegations from several women who have accused him of unwanted, inappropriate behavior.
In response, Biden vowed to change his behavior.
“Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying,” Biden said in a video. “Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful of personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.”