NEW YORK (AP) – Former Vice President Joe Biden condemned “a white man’s culture” Tuesday night as he lashed out at violence against women and, more specifically, lamented his role in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings that undermined Anita Hill’s credibility nearly three decades ago.
Biden, a Democratic presidential prospect who often highlights his white working-class roots, said Hill, who is African-American, should not have been forced to face a panel of “a bunch of white guys” about her sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas.
“To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said, echoing comments he delivered last fall as the nation debated sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh amid his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. “I wish I could have done something.”
Biden’s role in the 1991 Thomas confirmation hearings is among his many political challenges as he considers making a 2020 bid for the presidency. Should he run, he would be among a handful of white men in a Democratic presidential field that features several women and minorities.
His comments about Hill drew swift condemnation on social media, with many noting he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of the hearing.
“It literally does not matter what else Biden says about sexual assault if he cannot acknowledge his own culpability in putting a sexual assaulter on the Supreme Court and then pretending for years like he was powerless to stop it,” tweeted Jessica Morales Rocketto, a former aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign who now serves as the political director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Actress and political activist Mia Farrow called Biden’s role in the 1991 hearings “shameful.”
“Love you Joe but you were in a position to do better – and you didn’t,” she said.
Biden, 76, delivered the remarks at a New York City event honoring young people who helped combat sexual assault on college campuses. The event, held at a venue called the Russian Tea Room, was hosted by the Biden Foundation and the nonprofit group It’s on Us, which Biden founded with former President Barack Obama in 2014.
Biden called on Americans to “change the culture” that dates back centuries and allows pervasive violence against women. “It’s an English jurisprudential culture, a white man’s culture. It’s got to change,” he said.
The former vice president also repeatedly denounced violence against women during his remarks, which spanned more than a half hour. It’s a topic he knows well. As a senator from Delaware, he introduced the Violence Against Women’s Act in 1990.
“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.
He then shared a conversation he had with a member of a college fraternity.
“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,” Biden said. “You don’t deserve to be called a man.”