Former vice president Joe Biden apologized Tuesday for presiding over Justice Clarence Thomas’s 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing and condemned the “white man’s culture” that he believes led a group of white lawmakers to aggressively press Anita Hill on the specifics of her sexual assault allegation against the nominee.
“To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said Tuesday night at a New York City event celebrating students who fight sexual assault on college campuses. “I wish I could have done something.”
Biden, who chaired the Judiciary Committee during the Thomas confirmation hearings, has been confronted with a rash of criticism over his handling of the hearings since he began to explore a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
During his speech, Biden argued that the hearings — during which Hill faced aggressive and sometimes derisive questioning from, in Biden’s words, “a bunch of white guys,” — were broadly reflective of the American system of jurisprudence, which he believes unfairly advantages white men at the expense of other demographics.
“It’s an English jurisprudential culture, a white man’s culture. It’s got to change,” he said.
The former Vice President devoted a significant part of his remarks to condemning violence against women, particularly that which happens on college campuses, by drawing on his own experience as a fraternity member in college.
“No man has a right to lay a hand on a woman, no matter what she’s wearing, she does, who she is, unless it’s in self-defense. Never,” he said Tuesday.
“If you see a brother taking an inebriated co-ed up the stairs at a fraternity house and you don’t go and stop it, you’re a damn coward,” he added. “You don’t deserve to be called a man.”