In 1991 Joe Biden, then Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, acquiesced with the white guys piling on, ridiculing, humiliating and dismissing Anita Hill’s experience with Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Right wing pundit David Brock publicly tore into Hill as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty”. Did Senator Biden have anything to say to rein in that kind of attack? Not a word.
Nor has Biden felt the need since then to call Professor Hill to apologize. He’s merely said, recently, that he’s sorry the hearings “happened to her” — as if he were a bystander to a random car accident and not a leader of the Judiciary Committee with wide discretion over what unfolded.
Apparently, Biden called Professor Hill last month to say, sort of, “sorry”. He’s sorry for what she endured, but silent on his role in it.
Professor Hill is offering Biden no cheap grace, and good for her. She says she’s looking for real accountability, real change and a real sense of purpose. She is not supporting Biden’s bid.
I’m with Anita Hill, and neither do I. I think it’s a core part of Biden’s political DNA to be “one of the guys”. He can’t separate himself from that any more than he can distance himself from feeling entitled to rub, nuzzle, smell, grasp, or otherwise be overly physical with random women.
I’ve said before in a post that I often had to navigate around a similar sense of entitlement from powerful men in the financial services industry. I had to keep them at arms-length lightly and with a sense of humor, because they were the people I had to do deals with. Getting the reputation as a bitchy or overly-sensitive woman was a kiss of death.
No more — not for our daughters or granddaughters, our nieces, the young women we mentor. If I were at a fundraiser for Biden today and he came up behind me and started nuzzling me or rubbing my back, I’d respond much more strongly than I felt able to do earlier in my career. I might even turn around and smack him. Then I’d smile sweetly and say, “Come on Joe, don’t be so sensitive. It’s just who I am. It doesn’t mean anything.”
No cheap grace, Joe. And no endorsement, and no vote.