Sununu: Joe Biden ‘Confused,’ ‘Useless’ During Clarence Thomas Confirmation

In this Oct. 12, 1991, file photo, then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., points angrily at Clarence Thomas during comments at the end of hearings on Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., watches at right.
AP Photo/Greg Gibson

Joe Biden was reportedly “confused” and “useless” as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, according to the chief of staff of late-President George H.W. Bush.

John Sununu, who as Bush’s chief of staff from 1989 to 1991 oversaw Thomas’s confirmation, told the Washington Examiner on Saturday that Biden was paralyzed by inaction during the episode, especially after Anita Hill came forward to level accusations of sexual harassment against the then-nominee. In particular, according to Sununu, Biden struggled with whether or not to allow Hill to testify in front of his committee about the purported harassment.

“One of the reasons it got so difficult is that the chairman of the committee was relatively useless,” Sununu said of the former vice president, 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, who at the time was serving his first stint as chairman of the judiciary committee, eventually did “cave in to” the pressure and allowed Hill a platform upon which to speak. Hill’s testimony, however, did not sink Thomas, but only served to muddy the initial accusations and divide large segments of the country.

Biden, himself, voted against Thomas, but admitted to a colleague in 1998 that he believed Hill “was lying” given the way in which she answered questions in front of the committee. Despite the admission, Biden has sought to downplay his role in Thomas’s confirmation in recent months.

Shortly after before announcing his campaign, Biden reached to Hill directly to offer “regret” for the manner in which she was treated during the confirmation. The former vice president offered a broader apology of sorts in late-April during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.

“I believed her from the very beginning, but I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing. She did not get treated well. That’s my responsibility,” Biden said at the time. “As the committee chairman, I take responsibility that she did not get treated well.”


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