Publicly, Joe Biden has expressed remorse over the Senate Judiciary Committee's treatment of Anita Hill during her 1991 testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. But in private exchanges he's revealed frustration that he's still blamed for it.
According to a New York Times report, Biden, who oversaw the hearings as the committee's chair, has expressed privately that he thinks it's unfair that he's still held responsible for the questions the all-white, all-male committee posed to Hill, and that his fellow Democrats are among his detractors. He's reportedly told confidantes that such criticism ignores the limits on the role of Senate Judiciary Committee chair as well as, as the Times put it, the "political reality of the moment."
During the 1991 hearings, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Hill intimate questions about her sex life, with one senator going so far as to suggest Hill suffered from "erotomania," a disorder he believed might have led Hill to mistakenly believe Thomas—whom she had accused of sexual harassment—was in love with her.
A Times opinion piece years after the hearings, about the 1994 release of journalist Jane Mayer's famous book on them, accuses Biden of "rushing" the hearings at Republicans' request and suppressing evidence that could have bolstered Hill's testimony. "What were Mr. Biden's motives?" Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich wrote at the time. "Desperate to be liked by all, the Senator tried any path of least resistance that might allow Ms. Hill's incendiary accusations to die quietly."
In the #MeToo era, Biden has repeatedly apologized for his complicity in the proceedings.
The first of these many public apologies came in November, on the heels of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Roy Moore, and dozens of other powerful men.
"Let's get something straight here, I believed Anita Hill," Biden said onstage at Glamour's Women of the Year summit. "I voted against Clarence Thomas. … I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through," he continued. "Think of the courage it took her to come forward."
The following month, in a interview with Teen Vogue, Biden struck a similarly remorseful tone. "I owe her an apology," he said. “I insisted the next election — I campaigned for two women Senators on the condition that if they won they would come on the Judiciary Committee, so there would never be again all men making a judgment on this."
But in January, Biden told PBS NewsHour that he hadn't actually tried to contact Hill directly to convey his apology.
In a recent interview, ahead of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, Hill said she's not waiting around for a personal apology from Biden, the possibility of which she told Elle has become something of a joke in her family.
"It’s become sort of a running joke in the household when someone rings the doorbell and we’re not expecting company," Hill said. "'Oh,' we say, 'is that Joe Biden coming to apologize?'"
"There are more important things to me now than hearing an apology from Joe Biden," Hill added. "I’m okay with where I am."