Flashback: Biden Thought Anita Hill Wasn't Telling the Truth. He Was Right.

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Posted: Apr 29, 2019 2:15 PM
Flashback: Biden Thought Anita Hill Wasn't Telling the Truth. He Was Right.

We touched on the decades-old Anita Hill controversy last week, but Mollie Hemingway -- who is writing a book on the Kavanaugh confirmation circus -- has unearthed a long-forgotten piece of evidence that casts doubt on Biden's 2020-minded spin.  On Friday's edition of The View, Biden struggled a bit under questioning about his role as the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings.  According to the Left's folklore, cultivated for years after the public hearings moved public opinion in Thomas' favor, Hill was a brave truth-teller who was mistreated by the men on the committee.  Biden told The View crew that he "believed [Hill] from the beginning."  

But Hemingway revisited the following passage from the 2000 memoir of former Senator Arlen Specter (also a former Judiciary Committee Chairman, and a Republican-turned-Democrat), entitled Passion For Truth -- which relayed a 1998 conversation between Biden and Specter.  It turns out that Biden didn't exactly believe Hill's story, especially as her testimony unfolded.  Hemingway sets the scene:

[Specter] asked Hill about a USA Today article that claimed, “Anita Hill was told by Senate staffers her signed affidavit alleging sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas would be the instrument that ‘quietly and behind the scenes’ would force him to withdraw his name.” Specter read from the article: “Keith Henderson, a 10-year friend of Hill and former Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, says Hill was advised by Senate staffers that her charge would be kept secret and her name kept from public scrutiny.” Later it said, “They would approach Judge Thomas with the information and he would withdraw and not turn this into a big story, Henderson says.” Specter asked her if this was true, attempting to find out what Senate Democrats had arranged with Hill. Nine times she denied the claim, demurred, or otherwise attempted to get away from the question. She said she could vividly remember events related to Thomas from many years prior, but couldn’t quite remember this conversation from weeks prior. 

Those evasions and ostensible memory lapses didn't sit well with the committee's chairman, who told Specter that he thought the witness wasn't telling the truth -- and warned her attorneys accordingly.  Here's the relevant snippet from Passion For Truth:

After this exchange Biden recessed the committee. Biden told me in November 1998, ‘It was clear to me from the way she was answering the questions, she was lying.’ ‘At that point I truncated the hearing and recessed it early for lunch,’ Biden said. ‘I turned to my chief of staff and said, ‘Go down and tell her lawyers that if her recollection is not refreshed by the time she gets back, I will be compelled to pursue the same line of questioning the Senator [Specter] did. Because it seems to me, she did what he said.’ Biden, as the committee’s chairman and top Democrat, would have carried great sway if he had suggested publicly that Hill was lying when she repeatedly answered questions about Thomas’s potential withdrawal by saying she didn’t remember.

After Biden lowered the boom, Hill returned to the hearing room and admitted that she and a Democratic Senate staffer had, in fact, discussed pushing her allegations against Thomas behind the scenes as a means of getting the SCOTUS nominee to withdraw his name.  Then there were the other major factors that cast serious doubt on Hill's credibility, leading most Americans to side with Thomas immediately following the hearings:

In fact, it was less "he said, she said" than "they said, she said." Not a single colleague of Hill's came forward to support her allegations. In stark contrast, the very last panel heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee featured eight women, seven of whom had worked with Thomas at the EEOC, the Department of Education, and in Senator John Danforth's office...Each was given three minutes to speak, and each of them forcefully rejected the charges. Johnson, herself the victim of sexual harassment at a previous job, offered the most powerful testimony...In her initial meeting with FBI agents, she omitted many of the salacious details that later exploded in the Senate confirmation hearings. As Hill presented a much more scandalous story to the Senate Judiciary Committee, senators Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, and Arlen Specter had questions about why her story had changed so dramatically. 

"I did not tell the FBI all of the information," Hill replied to Specter, because the "FBI agent made clear that if I were embarrassed about talking about something, that I could decline to discuss things that were too embarrassing, but that I could provide as much information as I felt comfortable with at that time." But her account was immediately disputed by both of the FBI agents who had interviewed her, Special Agents Jolene Smith Jameson and John B. Luton, who observed her Senate testimony and then filed statements detailing what they described as Hill's untruthfulness.

Biden will undoubtedly be challenged on this subject again -- but as this controversy is re-litigated, observers should question the underlying premise that considers Hill a wronged victim. I'll leave you with an early union endorsement for Uncle Joe, followed by some New York Times-reported machinations of high-level, internal Democratic politics from the last presidential cycle:


Having put his thumb on the scale for a losing general election candidate last time around, it would make sense that Obama may be hesitant to meddle in the 2020 primaries, especially early on.  But does that mean that he's ruling out getting behind one candidate over another (say, Biden over Bernie) later in the process?  It's conceivable that he'd jump in, but didn't Biden claim he asked Obama not to endorse him?  Zero people actually believe that, right?