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Joe Biden talked to Anita Hill, but she's not yet willing to forgive the Democratic presidential contender

Key Points
  • Former vice president Joe Biden — who launched his third bid for the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday — spoke with Anita Hill, the woman whose treatment during Justice Clarence Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings Biden has said he regrets.
  • But Hill, who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment during those hearings, told The New York Times in an interview Wednesday that she left the conversation unsatisfied, saying "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you."
Professor Anita Hill is sworn-in before testifying at the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination. Miss Hill testified on her charges of alleged sexual harassment by Judge Thomas.
Bettmann | Getty Images

Former vice president Joe Biden — who launched his third bid for the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday — spoke with Anita Hill, the woman whose treatment during Justice Clarence Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings Biden has said he regrets.

But Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment during those hearings, told The New York Times that the conversation earlier this month with Biden was not enough to let him off the hook. "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you," she said.

Hill said she could not support Biden's bid for the White House until he accepts responsibility for his handling of the Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, when he was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel, which vetted Thomas' nomination by then-President George H.W. Bush, was composed entirely of white men. Both Hill and Thomas are black.

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Hill also told the Times that she is disturbed by recent allegations by women who said Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.

"Vice President Biden has spoken with Anita Hill," said a spokesman for Biden's campaign.

"They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country."

Hill did not return a request for comment from CNBC.

A Biden aide first disclosed the conversation between him and Hill during an interview with CNN on Thursday.

Several hours later, the Times published online its interview with Hill, which was conducted one day before Biden's camp first revealed their talk.

Hill told The Times, "The focus on apology to me is one thing."

"But he needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence."

Hill, a law professor who worked under Thomas at two federal agencies, told the committee that Thomas had harassed her when she worked with him. Thomas denied her claims.

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Hill has said that Biden "could have done more" to bolster her claims against Thomas, including by having people who supported her allegations testify at the hearings.

And last year, she said that while Biden has said he publicly apologized, "he hasn't apologized to me."

"The statute of limitations has run on an apology. I don't need an apology," Hill said during an event about sexual harassment at the University of Southern California.

"But sometimes when the doorbell rings, and I am not expecting anyone, I think, could that be Joe Biden?" she added to laughter from the audience.

In late March, during a speech, Biden said, "I wish I could have done something — I opposed Clarence Thomas' nomination, and I voted against him."

"To this day, I regret that I could not come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us," he said.

"A brave lawyer, a really notable woman, Anita Hill, a professor, showed the courage of a lifetime talking about her experience being harassed by Clarence Thomas ... But she paid a terrible price. She was abused in the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something."

— CNBC's Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.