Former Vice President Joe Biden’s touchy conduct toward women could shadow coming problems that will continue to plague his presidential campaign. | Cindy Ord/Getty Images
The former vice president said he didn’t reach out to Hill earlier because he didn’t want to ‘invade her space.’
By KATIE GALIOTO
04/26/2019 12:25 PM EDT
Updated 04/26/2019 01:09 PM EDT
Fri Apr 26 13:09:36 EDT 2019
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday offered caveated apologies to Anita Hill and the women who accused him of making them uncomfortable with his overly friendly touching, but only did so after being pressed by the hosts of “The View.”
Biden at first dodged questions about whether he would apologize directly to those who accused the former vice president of inappropriate physical conduct toward women, saying he was sorry “that they took it a different way.”Story Continued Below
Only after facing follow-up questions from “The View” host Joy Behar — who evoked Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call on the former vice president to apologize — did Biden directly address the women who spoke out against him.
“Sorry I invaded your space. I’m sorry this happened,” Biden said. “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.”
Biden also discussed his private apology to Anita Hill, which Hill told the New York Times did not satisfy her concerns that the primary candidate has a true grasp of how his actions affected her and other women who are victims of sexual harassment and assault.
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Biden was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 during the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who Hill accused of harassing her while acting as her supervisor. The former vice president has received repeated criticism for his handling of the widely televised hearings, during which Hill faced aggressive questioning from an all-white, all-male panel.
“I am sorry she was treated the way she was treated,” Biden said Friday, in what was his first interview since announcing his 2020 candidacy. “I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done. I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things.”
Biden’s stumbling responses to questions about Hill and his touchy conduct toward women could shadow coming problems that will continue to plague his presidential campaign. The former vice president has faced skepticism about whether he is the right candidate for the moment, an era that includes the #MeToo movement, a progressive push within the Democratic Party, and a wide field of young, diverse 2020 contenders.
When asked on Friday why it took him so long to reach out to Hill, Biden referenced his public expressions of regret for how the hearings were handled — in which, he noted, he lauded Hill for sparking changes in American culture. The former vice president said he’d had concerns about how efforts to contact Hill personally would be received, something he addressed by speaking to women advocates and those who know her.
”I didn’t want to, quote, invade her space,” Biden said.
When pressed, Biden contended he did not treat Hill poorly, instead blaming the process of Supreme Court hearings.
”Look, there were a lot of mistakes made across the board. For that I apologize. We may have been able to conduct it better,” he said. ”I believed Dr. Hill from the beginning. From the beginning. And I said it.”
Throughout the interview, he reiterated a pledge to be more conscious of how his actions could make others uncomfortable.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure that I bend over backwards to try to understand how not to do that,” he said.
Symone Sanders, one of Biden’s senior campaign advisers, posted a tweet after the interview pushing back against criticism of the presidential candidate and his ”unapologetic” authenticity.
”He clearly is someone unapologetic about his authenticity, sincere and genuine in his apology, has a vision for America and understands how we relate to the rest of the world,” she said. ”Such a stark contrast from what we have now. Whew!”
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