For the second time in the past month, former vice president Joe Biden has tried to atone for his role in the aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during a now-notorious 1991 congressional hearing.
In an interview with Teen Vogue published Wednesday, Biden said he regretted the way lawmakers treated Hill when she appeared before a Senate panel to detail allegations that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her former boss, had sexually harassed her.
‘‘I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill,’’ he said. ‘‘I owe her an apology.’’
During Thomas’ confirmation hearings, Hill testified that the justice repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her when she worked for him at the US Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas denied the allegations.
Hill, who is black, was grilled about her claims by an all-white, all-male group of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who attacked her credibility and peppered her with lurid questions about her encounters with Thomas. Biden, the committee chairman, did little to temper the accusatory tone in the room.
The episode has received renewed attention as the wave of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men has grown into a full-blown movement. Hill and her defenders have blamed Biden for letting the hearing spiral out of control.
Speaking with Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth, Biden defended some of his actions but said he wished he would have handled things differently.
‘‘I believed Anita Hill,’’ he said. ‘‘My one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her. As much as I tried to intervene I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask.’’
Thomas was confirmed 52-48. Biden voted against him.
Hill and others have said Biden was no innocent bystander during the hearing, which featured cringe-inducing exchanges about breast sizes, pornography, and Thomas’ anatomy. At one point, Biden badgered Hill about how she felt during an alleged sexually charged moment, asking, ‘‘Were you uncomfortable, were you embarrassed, did it not concern you?’’