About 90 minutes in Anita Hills testimony on October 11, 1991, Joe Biden had elections.
To cast doubt on her sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, the Republicans at the Senate Authority planned to ask her about a previous acquaintance called John Doggett, who in an affidavit said Hill was prone to romantic delusions and had "a problem being rejected by men she was attracted to. "
Doggett had not been monitored by the committee as the consultation rules required, and Biden said it would be best not to fly his claims before the audience interviewed him. But when the Republicans applied pressure, Biden was unsure of what to do – changing five times as colleagues, witnesses and a national television audience watched.
"We'll wait," said Biden first, only to weigh moments later with another idea: "Whatever the witness prefers."
Hill told the chairman: "So you have to make me decide, aren't you?"
Bid's handling of Hill's allegations against Thomas and the hearings they tense in 1991 remains one of the most revealing and controversial episodes in his career. In an era where two-party support for the Supreme Court's nominees was more common, the Delaware Senator wanted to run a process that was considered fair by both sides.
But for decades, the Democrats have been angry with Hills' treatment of the GOP and conflict with Biden's performance as chairman. The problem has even more resonance for some Democrats now following the assertion of sexual assault against the then Supreme Court candidate Brett M. Kavanaugh last year, leading to a similar hearing. Both he and Thomas refused wrongdoing.
Interviews with a dozen people with first-hand knowledge and a review of the written record and interviews published with participants over the past three decades reinforce that Biden has not used the powers granted to the Senate Committee chairmen to conduct a judicial and thorough examination of Hills' allegations. He did not fully observe witnesses whose allegations seemed to confirm her testimony or slow down the attacks and insinuation in her hearing during the hearing. A former Biden lawyer told The Washington Post this month that the Democrats were overwhelmed by Republicans whose purpose was to damage Hill.
Biden, 76, entered the presidential battle in 2020 on Thursday. Defended by supporters as a champion of women and survivors of sexual assault, the former Vice President has faced doubts about his White House's bid because of his age, past performance as a candidate and a physical style that has made some women unpleasant. Critics have also blamed Biden for not apologizing to Hill personally for conducting a hearing as they say was not fair to her.
Biden called Hill earlier this month to express regret at her experience, but Hill was unhappy with the conversation and did not characterize his comments as an apology, the New York Times reported Thursday. Hill did not respond to calls and emails about their conversation, and Bid's campaign told the Times that it would have no further comments.
"I still don't think [Biden’s response] takes ownership of his role in what happened," she said in an interview in 2017.
"Women searched for the Senate Judiciary and his leadership to really open the way to get such hearings, "she said. "They should have used best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women's equality, and they did just the opposite."
In response to questions sent by Posten, a spokesman for Biden presented a presentation on Wednesday that praised the Hills courage in 1991. Based on Biden's latest comments on the subject, the statement said that Biden "regrets not giving her that kind of hearing , she deserved. "
"She paid a terrible price," said Biden on an event in New York City last month. "She was abused by the hearing. She was exploited by … I wish I could have done something. The hearing she deserved was a hearing where she was respected."
Hill emailed the post Wednesday to say she had no comment on the opinion. She declined to be interviewed for this article.
The former lawyer, Biden Cynthia Hogan, said in an interview that he was approaching his role during the Thomas hearings as if he were a neutral arbitrator.
"What happened, we are really politically speaking of the Republicans," said Hogan, now vice president of public policy for America at Apple. "They came up with a purpose and the purpose was to destroy Anita Hill. Democrats did not coordinate and they did not prepare for battle. I think he would say that was what should be done differently."
Keith Henderson, a friend of Hills who spent time with her as the hearings unfolded, wondered in an interview this month why Biden had not personally apologized to her. 19659023] "This is where I am mistaken," said Henderson in his first comments to the press about the episode. "He just had to clear the air and clear his own conscience … I think he is making another mistake in the way he handles the whole thing."
Biden was 48 In 1991, a fourth-term democratic senator known for his political moderation and what some former Senate helps described as a concern to be desired by members of both parties. As the author of the bill, which became the law of violence against women of 1994, he presented his sensitivity to women who had been abused and used his presidency to proclaim their interests.
At the end of June, the Supreme Court brought justice Thurgood Marshall announced he would retire as the first and only black justice in the Supreme Court. President George H.W. Bush responded by nominating the 43-year-old Thomas, also African American, who had served in the Reagan administration and was a judge at the DC Board of Appeal.
In the summer, rumors around Washington circulated that while Hill worked for Thomas at the Institute of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he had pushed her to dates and addressed their work conversations against his sexual interests. Thomas, who refused to comment on this article, has fiercely refused to harass Hill or any woman who worked for him.
Biden approached the affirmation focusing on Thomas's legal philosophy and a desire to avoid issues of ethics or personal behavior. During the struggle for Robert Borks Supreme Court nomination in 1987, the vote showed public support for managing personal affairs, a bite aide said a few years later. Biden still had a bitter taste of attack on his character in the 1988 campaign cycle, when he resigned as a presidential candidate after believing that he was plagiarizing part of a British politician's speech.
Hill, then a 35-year-old law professor in Oklahoma, was approached by the Democratic Senate and told them about her experience with Thomas, with the understanding that she would remain anonymous. But Biden's staff told her that they could not circulate their claims to the members of the judiciary unless they were shared with Thomas along with her name.
Finally, on September 20, Biden's staff suggested that, due to Hills' frustration, she could warn committee members of her accusations by filing an FBI investigation where both she and Thomas would be interviewed.
The probe started three days later after Hill faxed a four-page statement of allegations to Biden's staff. A senior Biden aide said in 1992 that the FBI interviewed "about 10 people in about seven different cities for about 48 hours." The final report did not draw conclusions.
Biden did not share Hills 'statement with Democrats in committee for hours before the court committee was in a 7 to 7 vote on Thomas' nomination; Most Republican members of the committee did not review the statement until days later. (Thomas was confirmed 52 to 48 in mid-October; Biden voted against him in the committee and on the floor.)
Today's committee voted, according to several accounts, that Biden told Thomas he would oppose ideological reasons but promised to send the appointment to the Senate League, where it seemed that Thomas would be confirmed. Biden later said he assured Thomas during the conversation that he would be treated fairly if Hill's allegations were reported in the press.
Former Senator John Danforth (R-Mo.) And Thomas & # 39; wife later wrote that Biden promised to stand for Thomas's character, a characterization Biden discussed publicly.
"I think you're a good man," Virginia Thomas recalled Biden, who told Clarence Thomas, according to an essay she wrote in People magazine in November 1991. "And if those claims come I don't think they have profits I will be your greatest defender. "
Nine days later, as the Senate was preparing for its final vote on Thomas & # 39; s nomination, Hills' anonymity was broken as her claims and identity was reported by Newsday, Long Island based newspaper and NPR.
Biden was concerned that any attention to Hill would raise concerns over how he had dealt with her case. From his point of view, the FBI had investigated and he had made his final report available to the members of his committee. He had followed the rules.
The news led Senate Democrats to postpone the floor vote on Thomas's nomination for a week to allow for new hearings. Republicans received more concessions from Biden and Democratic leaders. Hearings would begin in just three days, the Judge Committee would not take another vote on Thomas, and the final stage would take place on schedule, whatever came out during the hearings.
Biden and Republicans agreed that the hearings would focus on sexual harassment allegations and not dive into other issues that Thomas claimed interest in pornography. (Thomas refused Hill's accusations, including her claim that he had been discussing pornographic films with her.)
The President also offered Thomas the option of witnessing Hill, Hill or both; he chose the third option.
"I think [Biden] was in a very, very difficult position because it was such a big event and he tried to be the judge of a procedure where there were no rules," said Danforth in an interview.
Biden called Hill for the first time that night to tell her about the hearings, a conversation she recalled in her 1997 book, "Talking Truth to Power."
"I asked how consultation would be conducted." "The only thing we can do is conduct an open hearing," he said almost as if I was guilty. "I give you my word that I have only acted to protect your confidentiality," she wrote.
Three Days later all the major television networks led the hearing when Biden ordered it and gave opening remarks, saying that justice demanded that Thomas "be of benefit to the doubt." He also said that as president he had the power to " exclude issues that are not relevant to our work. "
Thomas, alarmed by Biden for failing to take into account his character, provided a fiery opening statement, saying he would not" supply the garments for my own lynching " , a comment that stunned Democrats to a t silent.
When Biden began to question him, G. Hatch (R-Utah) cut him out in the middle of the sentence.
"This is the nomination of a man to become justice in the Supreme Court of the United States," said Hatch, who seems irate and begins a long  attack against Hill and the process.
"Should the senator give?" Biden said after a while.
"I'm not done," Hatch said.
"Senator, let me". "
" Let me finish. "
" No, I won't. "
" Yes, you will. Yes, you will, "said Hatch. Biden was the chairman, but the Republicans had begun to take control.
Hill under fire
Hill compared the hearing with a" lawsuit that lacked all the protection of a lawsuit. " She was faced with a white-men-wide committee, with an average age of about 60, Hill being African American.
"Even though someone had been sitting at the table with me, you couldn't protest, no one could speak, but I, and the chairman didn't control what was going on, so it was worse than trying out because in a lawsuit you have legal protectors, "she told the post in 2017.
In Senate Offices, Republicans sought allegations from Hills former law students who claimed that she was involved in indecent behavior, they also sought information on mental conditions that could make her claim Thomas, and in the courtroom, republican members of the committee raised the motives and beauty of the Hills Hill's potential and beauty. plagiarized a statement by the horror novel "The Exorcist", and suggested that they gather a crowd of ugly details about her personal life. 19659061] "I really get things over transom about Professor Hill," said late Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.). "I've got statements from her former professors, statements from people who know her, statements from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and say," Beware this woman. ""
Simpson told WNYC in 2014 that he was "a monster" to Hill and "turned to the core" during the hearing because he believed in his claims described a behavior that did not cause serious concern.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Now deceased, asked witnesses who supported Thomas if Hills's allegations were made for reasons of ambition and whether she might have imagined the behavior that she said Thomas involved. After Hill passed an onion detector test commissioned by her lawyers, Simpson read an affidavit that this did not mean she did not suffer from "a misleading suffering."
When the Republicans were preparing to question Hill during the hearing, Biden said there was "no real answer" to whether they should be allowed to ask Doggett, her former acquaintance, contrary to the rules. He put onus on Hill to decide and she relented.
"I never had any imagination about a romance with him," she told Specter.
Biden challenged several witnesses who testified about Thomas, including Doggett said that Doggett's conclusion that Hill had fantasized about him romantic was a "true step of faith – or ego."
The hearings ran for three days. Four witnesses testified to Hill, two of whom said she had told them about Thomas's alleged behavior in the early 1980s. Sixteen witnesses testified on behalf of Thomas and drew the final session on the morning of 14 October.
Thomas was asked a woman named Angela Wright, a former EEOC employee whose claim that he had asked for the size of his breasts and pressed her to date had found its way to the committee. Wright, then an editor of the Charlotte Observer, was deposited by staff and flew to Washington during summons. Biden, who quoted time constraints, never called her to testify.
Two other women who had worked at EEOC were also seen as potential witnesses whose accounts would support the Hills. Rose Jourdain was able to confirm Wright's story, and Sukari Hardnett wrote to the committee that "if you were young, black, woman and reasonably attractive, you knew you were inspected and auditioned as a woman" by Thomas while working for him. 19659070] Wright refused to comment on this article. Jourdain died in 2010. Hardnett did not respond to a request for comments.
The last day of hearing was given witnesses of witnesses, and the pro-Thomas testimony lasted a long time. If Wright, Jourdain or Hardnett had been called to testify, it would have been late at night.
Finally, Biden did not call any of the women, and no attention was paid to Wright's deposit, which was submitted to the written record instead of her testimony. Biden framed this as Wright's decision, and the two signed a letter saying that if she wanted to testify in person, he would respect his request. Wright, in the case to the point, saw it as Bid's decision to call her.
Hogan, former lawyer Biden, said she recommended that Biden place Wright's deposit in the post instead of having her testify late in the last night. She said she saw it as a "slam-dunk victory" because the interview would go unrebutted by the Republicans, but now this view was naive.
"I feel I gave Senator Biden bad advice," Hogan told the post. "I told him I thought it was better than having his testimony alive. I have felt bad about this for years."
Republicans working to confirm Thomas praised Biden's performance and said he had no reason to apologize.
"I believed in the circumstances, he did as well as possible" Boyden Gray, who acted as Bush's White House council during the confirmation fight, said in an interview. "There was very obvious disappointment and perhaps even anger at how things turned out, but I think those of us who knew him knew he was trying to preserve the dignity of the committee and run a fair process."
Gray said he "always thought [Biden] was skeptical of the whole plot, whether you like or the whole development."
Biden said in 2017 that he believed Hill and said he was sorry "if she felt she did not get a fair hearing."
Libby Casey and Annys Shin interviewed Hill in 2017. Robert Barnes, Alice Crites, Julie Tate and Matt Showing Contributions to this Report.