One of Joe Biden’s longtime Senate colleagues is contradicting claims the former vice president recently made about having believed Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’s contentious confirmation battle to the Supreme Court.
Former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Fox Nation for an upcoming documentary that Biden admitted during the 1991 proceedings that he harbored doubts about the allegations of sexual misconduct Hill leveled at Thomas. At the time of the confirmation hearings, Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Hatch one its senior Republican members.
“Biden told me personally that he didn’t believe her,” Hatch told Fox Nation. “He said, ‘I don’t know why she did this.’ I don’t mean to malign Joe, but Joe told me he didn’t believe her and there were some others that told me that, too.”
Hatch’s claim, which is similar to one the late-Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter made in his 2000 memoir, directly contradicts recent statements Biden has made on the topic.
“I believed her from the very beginning, but I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing,” Biden said in April, shortly before announcing his presidential campaign.
The contradicting stories underscore the effort Biden has gone to downplay his involvement in the controversial hearings. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, then-Sen. Joe Biden was tasked with properly vetting Thomas’s qualifications for the nation’s highest court. The task became nearly impossible when Hill, a former colleague of Thomas, came forward to accuse the then-nominee of sexual harassment. Although, Thomas vigorously denied the allegations and there was little evidence to back up Hill, the confirmation hearings quickly devolved into a proxy war of ‘he said, she said.’
Biden, himself, appeared to struggle with the controversial spotlight cast upon as him chairman of the committee. As John Sununu, the former chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, who nominated Thomas to the court, recently recounted, Biden was paralyzed by inaction when it came to allowing Hill to testify in front of his committee.
“One of the reasons it got so difficult is that the chairman of the committee was relatively useless,” Sununu said, before adding Biden “was confused” throughout the entire process.
“He didn’t know whether he wanted to do the right thing or whether he wanted to cave in to the liberals that were trying to really, in a very disgraceful way, ruin the reputation of a very good man, currently Justice Thomas,” he said.
Biden eventually did “cave in to” the pressure and allowed Hill to testify about the purported harassment. Instead of sinking Thomas, however, the testimony only served to muddy the situation further and resulted in polarizing large segments of the nation. Only days after Hill testified, the full Senate voted to confirm Thomas, albeit narrowly. Biden voted with the majority of his fellow Democrats against confirmation.
Despite voting against Thomas and giving Hill a platform upon which to voice her allegations, Biden has not escaped the episode unscathed. With the onset of the #MeToo movement, activists have revisited the proceedings and found Biden’s conduct lacking. Hill, herself, argued the then-senator did not do enough to either shield her from partisan rancor or properly address the issue of sexual assault in an op-ed published by the New York Times in May.
“If the Senate Judiciary Committee, led then by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed that its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have began in 1991 — with the support of the government,” she wrote.
Biden, for his part, has taken the criticism solemnly and even publicly offered “regret” for the manner in which Hill was treated during the confirmation hearings.
“As the committee chairman, I take responsibility that she did not get treated well,” Biden said during an April interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.