In Softball NBC Interview, Biden Compares Kavanaugh Allegations to Deliverance Rape Scene

During a live interview with former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday’s Today show, co-host Craig Melvin invited the former Judiciary Committee Chairman to advise the Senate on how to handle a potential hearing with Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. In his response, Biden was given free rein to blast Republicans for trying to “character assassinate” Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill and even compared the claims against Kavanaugh to a graphic movie rape scene.

“How would you suggest that the Senate handle these allegations?,” Melvin asked as the softball exchange began. Biden demanded an FBI investigation and then recalled the Senate hearing he lead examining Hill’s sexual harassment claims against Thomas during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation battle: “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 and the way they asked them. I hope my colleagues learn from that...”

 

 

Noting criticism of Biden’s handling of that hearing 27 years earlier, Melvin followed up: “You were chairman of the Judiciary Committee back in 1991. You were roundly criticized for not doing more during that hearing. Looking back on that, specifically, how would you advise senators to proceed next week?”

Biden insisted that “the woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be, you know, abused again by the system,” and lamented that he didn’t “shut off” senators who aggressively questioned Hill. “And so what happened was, she got victimized again during the process,” he proclaimed.

The former Vice President also revealed that his mind was made up about Thomas’s guilt before the hearing even began: “And I believed her when she came forward, I encouraged her to come forward, we were in a position where we got the FBI to do an investigation, and I voted against Clarence Thomas.”

Moments later, Melvin observed: “It seems like you get it now, versus back in ’91?” Biden argued: “Well, I think I got it in ’91....it’s important that people understand, and I think people do now, understand how hard it is to come forward.” The Democrat then made this eyebrow-raising comparison: “And I always say to men, they say why is it so hard? How about if you had been abused? You see the movie Deliverance, how about if you were the guy strapped to the tree, would you come forward? Would you want to relive that?”

Melvin’s facial expression clearly showed he was taken aback by the reference to an explicit gay rape scene featured in the 1972 film. Biden insisted: “I’m serious, I’m deadly earnest.” Rather than push back on the extreme comment, Melvin simply moved on to wonder about Biden’s 2020 presidential ambitions.

Wrapping up the friendly exchange minutes later, Melvin returned to the topic of Kavanaugh: “If there is no FBI investigation, should the Senate proceed as usual and should there be a vote if she doesn’t testify?” Biden predictably replied: “Look, I don’t think there should be. I just think, what the devil have we learned here?” He then declared that Ford “should not have to go through what Anita Hill went through and some of the questions that she got asked and the way the right went after her on national television and questioned her integrity and questioned her, not just her honesty, questioned her behavior.”

Melvin never bothered to question the credibility of Hill’s claims against Thomas, nor mention the fact that the FBI investigation of the allegations came back inconclusive.

Here are excerpts of the lengthy September 21 interview that dealt with Kavanaugh:

7:30 AM ET

WILLIE GEIST: We want to get right down to Washington, D.C., where Craig is sitting down for an exclusive live interview with former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. Craig, good morning.

CRAIG MELVIN: Willie, Hoda, good morning to you. The Bidens are here in Washington D.C. We are here for a fantastic cause, the Biden Cancer Summit. And I want to talk about that in a moment.

But let’s start with the news of the day, the confirmation process of Justice – Judge Brett Kavanaugh here. Dr. Ford has said now that she wants to testify, as you know, Mr. Vice President. But now the battle seems to be over how versus when. She wants to make sure that she’s protected, she wants to make sure that she’s treated fairly. How would you suggest that the Senate handle these allegations?

JOE BIDEN: I think they should do an FBI investigation. We did that for Anita Hill, it took two days. Number one. And number two, most importantly, 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 and the way they asked them. I hope my colleagues learn from that, learn from that. She deserves to be treated with dignity.

It takes enormous courage for a woman to come forward under the bright lights of millions of  people watching and relive something that happened to her, assert that something happened to her. And she should be treated with respect.

MELVIN: You brought up Anita Hill. You were chairman of the Judiciary Committee back in 1991. You were roundly criticized for not doing more during that hearing. Looking back on that, specifically, how would you advise senators to proceed next week? And how do you balance the rights of a woman who’s making accusations like this versus the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty?

BIDEN: Well, I think the presumption should exist. But what should happen is the woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be, you know, abused again by the system. My biggest regret was I didn’t know how I could shut you off, if you were a senator, and you were attacking Anita Hill’s character. Under the Senate rules, I can’t gavel you down and say you can’t ask that question, although I tried.

And so what happened was, she got victimized again during the process. And I believed her when she came forward, I encouraged her to come forward, we were in a position where we got the FBI to do an investigation, and I voted against Clarence Thomas. He only got seven votes. He got seven yeses and seven nos, it was a tie vote in the committee.

But I hope that they understand what courage it takes for someone to come forward and relive what they allege – what they believe happened to them and let them state it. But treat her with respect. Ask tough questions, ask substantive questions, “Where were you? What was said? Who said what?,” et cetera. But don’t go after the – not the character assassination.

MELVIN: It seems like you get it now, versus back in ’91?

BIDEN: Well, I think I got it in ’91. I don’t think – well, people have their own opinion. That’s why I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. The second – and during this period. And the second reason, I insisted the next time out, two women come on the committee. Two women. They didn’t want to come on the committee, so I campaigned for Carol Moseley Braun on the condition that if she won, she’d come on the committee.

It’s important – it’s important that people understand, and I think people do now, understand how hard it is to come forward. And I always say to men, they say why is it so hard? How about if you had been abused? You see the movie Deliverance, how about if you were the guy strapped to the tree, would you come forward? Would you want to relive that? I’m serious, I’m deadly earnest.

(...)

7:38 AM ET

MELVIN: Really quickly, before I let both of you get out of here and before we go back to the studio, I want to go back to something you said at the beginning about the investigation. If there is no FBI investigation, should the Senate proceed as usual and should there be a vote if she doesn’t testify?

BIDEN: Look, I don’t think there should be. I just think, what the devil have we learned here? What have we learned? I mean, so much has changed since I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. So much has changed about how the public understands the pressure on women. And I’ve learned a lot as well, too. And you know, it’s just, she should not have to go through what Anita Hill went through and some of the questions that she got asked and the way the right went after her on national television and questioned her integrity and questioned her, not just her honesty, questioned her behavior. I mean, that's just not appropriate. You shouldn’t have to be – you shouldn’t have to be twice put through the same exact thing.  

MELVIN: Mr. Vice president, thank you. Dr. Biden, thank you.

BIDEN: And by the way, it took her a lot of courage for her to come forward.

MELVIN: You’ve said in the past that you would apologize to her. If she were watching right now, what would you say to her?

BIDEN: I’m sorry I couldn’t have stopped the kind of attacks that came to you. But I never attacked her. I supported her. I believed her from the beginning and I voted against Clarence Thomas.

MELVIN: Thank you.

(...)


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