Biden Struggles to Apologize for Anita Hill’s Treatment, Reassure Women

(Bloomberg) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled Friday when pressed to apologize for his treatment of Anita Hill and to make amends to women who’ve said he had made them uncomfortable by touching them.

In his first interview since announcing his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, Biden resisted requests from the female hosts of ABC’s "The View" to take accountability in a way that they said would reassure other women.

Biden Struggles to Apologize for Anita Hill’s Treatment, Reassure Women

"I’m sorry the way she got treated," he said when Joy Behar asked him to take direct responsibility for not doing a better job of helping Hill during Clarence Thomas’ tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991, which Biden oversaw as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill had accused Thomas of sexually harassing her when he was her boss.

Behar also told him that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had asked him to make a more forceful apology to the women he’d made uncomfortable and to say "sorry I invaded your space." Biden repeated that phrase and added, "but I’m not sorry in the sense that I think I did anything that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate."

The Democratic front-runner said that while he may have had some blind spots, he never acted maliciously with Hill or any woman he’s touched or hugged. He only intended to show empathy and warmth, he said.

"If you go back and look at what I said and didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly," he said of Hill. "What I couldn’t figure out how to do" was to stop members of the committee from asking "inflammatory questions" and outsiders from attacking accusers.

Biden called Hill earlier this month as he prepared to begin his presidential campaign, an aide said hours after he got into the race. Hill told the New York Times this week that she was not satisfied with his apology. He said Friday on the television program, "I’m not going to judge" whether she thought it was sufficient.

"I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated," he added. "I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules, to be able to stop things."

Biden also praised Hill for inspiring other women to speak out, describing her as a pioneer of the #MeToo movement. He said she inspired him to complete the Violence Against Women Act and push to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee had female members after the 1992 election. "She’s responsible for significant changes and she deserves credit for it," he said.

When it comes managing accusations against Supreme Court nominees, "there’s so much more work to do," he said, referring to the way Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh were handled by the Judiciary Committee and the public last year.

Biden, 76, was also asked to address voters’ concerns about his age. He is four years older than Donald Trump, the oldest person elected president. Biden would not commit to serving only one term, even though observers have suggested that could help ease some voters’ worries about his age.

"Let me put it this way, I may end up if I get elected only having one term," he joked. "I think it’s important for people, it’s a legitimate question to ask about my age." He added that he hopes to demonstrate that "with age has come wisdom and experience that can make things a lot better. That’s for you all to decide. Not for me to decide."

Trump described himself Friday as a "young, vibrant man" compared to Biden, who he has called "sleepy Joe." Biden said "hyper Joe" would be a more fitting moniker.

If Trump "looks young and vibrant compared to me, I should probably go home," he said.

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