Anita Hill speaks on waiting nearly 30 years for Joe Biden apology

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Brandeis University professor Anita Hill is best known to the public for her role in the 1991 confirmation hearing of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who she accused of sexual harassment. 

Hill recently released a new book, Believing: Our Thirty Year Journey to End Gender Violence, in which she addresses waiting for an apology from Joe Biden he said he owed her. 

Anita Hill (left) received words of regret from President Joe Biden (right) for the tight scrutiny he gave her during Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation to the Supreme Court, she says, before he announced his White House run. (Photos: Rachel Murray/Getty Images and Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Back in ’91, Biden — then a senator from Delaware — was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and presided over Thomas’ confirmation hearings. Hill was grilled by an all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee led by Biden, who, at the time, was stridently aiming to prevent the nomination of America’s second Black high court justice from being derailed by racist forces. 

In March 2019, before announcing his run for the White House, Hill contends, Biden called her to express regret for the way she was treated during the hearing. “My expectations weren’t all that high, anyway,” she says of their talk in a new interview with PEOPLE. “But I suppose I felt some relief that we could put that part behind us and then get to what was really important, which is: What are you going to do about it?”

Hill notes in her book that she learned that Biden was planning to apologize from a journalist in December 2017 as he was preparing to announce his plans to run for the presidency. She writes that for over a year, she and her partner would play a game every time the doorbell would ring. The couple would ask each other, “Could that be Joe Biden coming to apologize in person?” 

In late April 2019, Hill spoke to The New York Times and did not characterize the conversation with Biden as an apology, asserting she was not convinced of his understanding and responsibility for his conduct and how it had set a precedent for the future treatment of victims of sexual harassment and gender violence. Christine Blasey Ford testified against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in an eerie repeat of Thomas’ hearing. 

“[The apology] wasn’t just about me,” Hill told PEOPLE. “It really was about, How do we stop this problem that I had come to symbolize? How do we address that? Let’s get down to some work, and let’s figure out what we need to do so that people really believe the apology’s sincere.”

Hill, 65, is advocating for gender violence to be addressed at a government level, as well as in other sectors of society, including education. 

One example of a strong investigation into sexual harassment claims, she maintains, is the one being led by New York State Attorney General Letitia James into allegations against former Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

“The attorney general in the state of New York did a full investigation. I did read the document,” Hill says. “From all appearances it was impartial, it was balanced and there was opportunity on both sides to be heard. It was measured … That is a model.”

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