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Former Vice President Joe Biden said the FBI should investigate the allegation against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and senators should treat the woman who has accused him of sexual assault better than they treated Anita Hill decades ago.
“What the devil have we learned here?” he said Friday in an exclusive TODAY interview.
“Anita Hill was vilified when she came forward, by a lot of my colleagues — character assassination. I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions, the way they asked them,” he said. “I hope my colleagues learned from that.”
Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas, has been criticized for failing to blunt attacks on Hill when she testified about her sexual harassment claims.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has been halted by similar charges. University professor Christine Blasey Ford recently came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while the two were at a party in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the claim, and both have been asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
“She deserves to be treated with dignity,” Biden said of Ford. “It takes enormous courage for a woman to come forward under bright lights, with millions of people watching, and relive something that happened to her, assert that something happened to her, and she should be treated with respect."
Biden stressed he voted to reject Thomas's confirmation, and apologized to Hill for not doing more during the hearing.
"I’m sorry I couldn’t have stopped the kind of attacks that came to you," he said. "But I never attacked her, I supported her. I believed in her from the beginning."
When told by TODAY's Craig Melvin that "it seems like you get it now, versus back in '91," Biden responded: "I think I got it in '91."
He said that's that's why he penned the Violence Against Women Act, which strengthened protections for victims of domestic and gave strength to prosecuting related claims. The law was enacted in 1994.
Biden said he also insisted that two women lawmakers be added to the Senate panel following the Hill hearings so that broader perspectives would be represented.
"I think people do now understand how hard it is to come forward," he said.
Biden also downplayed speculation that he would make another run for president. Instead, he said he's been on the campaign trail for congressional candidates because "you got a lot of talented people" who have a chance of stopping "this degradation of the system" he feels currently exists.
"I desperately want to change the landscape and there’s more than one way to do it," he said.
The former vice president was interviewed with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, to promote the Biden Cancer Summit currently convening in Washington, D.C. The couple's son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015.
"We’re trying to create the urgency of 'now' with our summit, and to bring people together and break down barriers and give them information," Dr. Biden said, adding that so many people who get a cancer diagnosis feel overwhelmed about what next steps to take.
"After you feel that punch in your stomach, in your gut, then you say, what now? Where do I go? What do I do? What’s this going to be like?" she said. "That’s what we’re trying to provide with this cancer summit."