In 1991, Anita Hill claimed Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her while she was in her 20s. She testified at Thomas’ confirmation hearings before five white, male Senators. At the time former Vice President Joe Biden served as the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.

As decades-old sexual misdoing allegations surface in every facet of public life, Hill’s story has been met with renewed interest. To her, Biden has yet to take “ownership of his role in what happened.”

The Washington Post has the story:

On Nov. 16, Anita Hill sat down at The Washington Post offices with five current and former Democratic lawmakers: Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.), Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Pat Schroeder (Colo.) and Louise M. Slaughter (N.Y.) — all allies of Hill during her historic appearance at the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. Hill, now a professor of legal history and public policy at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, alleged at the time that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she was in her mid-20s and worked for him at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The five female lawmakers were part of a larger group of members of Congress who prevailed on their colleagues — including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) — to allow Hill to testify. Millions of Americans watched on television as the all-white, all-male panel questioned Hill with prosecutorial zeal. Thomas denied the allegations and called the proceedings “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” He was confirmed 52-48.

Now, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual-assault scandal, Biden has faced renewed scrutiny over Hill’s treatment during the 1991 hearings. At an event hosted by Glamour magazine on Nov. 13, he said he was “so sorry” for what she went through. A few days later, at our gathering — which was set up for a forthcoming issue of The Washington Post Magazine, in which we’re asking a number of political and cultural figures to revisit their roles in seminal Washington moments — Hill said “some part of” Biden’s recent remarks was a real apology, “but I still don’t think it takes ownership of his role in what happened.” (In June, when we began setting up the meeting, we invited Biden, but he declined. On Nov. 20, he declined to comment on Hill’s statement. Thomas declined to comment as well.)

Last year, HBO created a largely fictionalized version of the hearings called ‘Confirmation’.

Parts of Hill’s testimony didn’t add up, as fact checkers noted, but that’s not really our focus here.

Thus far, Democrats have unilaterally circled the wagons to protect Franken in the midst of his own sexual harassment allegations. Hill’s willingness to openly criticize Biden for being part of the problem, may very well be the first crack in the dam. Especially when Biden’s pet project is sexual assault awareness.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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