April 26, 2019

Here's what I need.

I need for people to stop saying Joe Biden apologized to Anita Hill in his phone call to her. Stephanie Ruhle made that claim at least twice in on her show today, to the face of the New York Times reporter who broke the story about Joe Biden finally calling Anita Hill to speak to her in person about her ordeal from 1991. And the reporter, Sheryl Gay Stolberg did not even bother to correct her.

In fact, even the Joe Biden camp is not saying he apologized to her. According to that Times article,

the Biden camp disclosed the call, saying the former vice president had shared with Ms. Hill “his regret for what she endured” 28 years ago, when, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he presided over the confirmation hearings in which she accused Clarence Thomas, President George Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment.

That's not an apology. Anita Hill knew that. She expressed that sentiment in the lengthy phone call with Stolberg, who reported, "she declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s words to her as an apology and said she was not convinced that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings — or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence."

Hill went so far as to draw a direct line between how he handled the Clarence Thomas hearings and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh (*spits*) to the Supreme Court. The refusal to accept responsibility for his contribution to the toxic culture of acceptance of sexual assault, and dismissing the women who endure it is maddening. Saying he wishes there was more he could do, when indeed, there was clearly more he could have done, is gaslighting 101. Asking us to overlook it and pointing us instead to his writing the Violence Against Women Act is classic manipulation. It is not as if he has ever said, "I feel terrible for the harm I caused during the Anita Hill testimony, and for not supporting her in the ways I had available to me. As a form of retribution, I am going to vow to fight for her, and ever other victim of sexual assault and violence from this day on." No. He is saying, "I had no choice when Anita Hill testified! And hey, look over here! I'm not such a bad guy! VAWA!"

The panel was asking if Biden will ever get past his Anita Hill problem. The answer is, he never SHOULD get past the Anita Hill problem. Truly coming to terms with this involves recognizing the harm he caused, how he fell short, and being willing to face women (and men) who wish to confront him about it for as long as there are women (and men) who wish to do so. And he should be prepared with what is an actual apology. "I'm so sorry for the harm I caused. What I did (and did not do) was wrong. Anita Hill and you deserved better, and I will always try to be and do better."

Can he ever get PAST his Anita Hill problem? Hell, he can't even get TO his Anita Hill problem.

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