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How will Democrats respond to Joe Biden’s campaign announcement, and can he move past the persistent questions about his treatment of Anita Hill and women more generally? Judy Woodruff talks to Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., who endorsed Biden’s candidacy Thursday, and Aimee Allison, president of She the People, a group that advocates for women of color, about Biden's past, present and future.
We want to look now at Mr. Biden's bid for the race for the nomination, and how Democrats may respond, with Democratic Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware. She endorsed Joe Biden's candidacy today.
And, Aimee Allison, she's president of She the People. It's a group that advocates for women of color in leadership positions. She is not supporting a specific Democratic candidate in the campaign.
We welcome both of you to the NewsHour.
Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, to you first. You're right out of the box saying you endorse Joe Biden for president. Why? Why is he the right person for 2020?
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.:
Joe Biden is the right person for such a time as this. I've known Joe for 30 years as Delaware senator, vice president, but also as a friend.
And when I think about his taking this step, I think about the past, the present and the future. First of all, just the past, the record of accomplishments that he brings to the table; the present, that we are living in a time as his video showed earlier today where incidents like Charlottesville are happening and where we are seeing just an abuse of power. And, so, he's focused on the present, but also because he cares about the future of this country.
And, so, I'm excited. Many of us not just here in Delaware but across the country are excited about the campaign and feel that Joe Biden is the person that needs to be our next president.
Aimee Allison, how do you look on Joe Biden's candidacy?
Well, it's interesting to talk about past, present and future. Joe Biden had the benefit of high name ID and his association with President Obama which makes him beloved amongst African-American voters and particularly African-American women who are the highest vote turnout Democrats, most loyal Democrats.
But we really need to talk about also the past association with Anita Hill. And, you know, I think there's going to be a lot of questions about his relationship to not only black women but women of color in general, associated with how he handled the Anita Hill hearings back then but, also just a couple of weeks ago, how he handled the accusations of improper behavior toward former Nevada legislator Lucy Flores. I think that's the present.
And, you know, I think the future really going to depend on, you've got a candidate with high-name ID who is entering into a very different world. This is a #MeToo era and a Black Lives Matter era, you know, how is he able to appeal to a broad range of very enthusiastic key Democratic voters in the places that he needs to in order to gain the momentum? I think that question is still out.
Well, let's take two of the things that you've just mentioned, Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, how about he handled Anita Hill in 1991, being a very tough questioner of her when she was raising questions about sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, and what's happened in the last few weeks.
I think, for Joe Biden, you know, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him. I actually requested 15 minutes. I was granted a half an hour, but we stopped and talked for two and a half hours about a lot of issues because he believes, as well, that this is not a fait accompli. That this is something that he has to earn.
As was said by Aimee, black women are the loyalist Democratic voters. We are the active Democratic voters, and we have also said that we want a seat at the table. And so, I think what people need to look at as we go into the next couple of months is two — a few things. Number one, his experience, number two, what are his policies, and, number three, who does he hire, who does he bring around the table as well.
One of the things that I can acknowledge for him is that, I just want to say this one last thing, is what he does that is different than our current leader is that he acknowledges areas he needs to grow and he moves forward and tries to grow. That's something we're not seeing right now in our president.
I want to come back to Anita Hill. "The New York Times" is reporting today, this afternoon, that Anita Hill is saying she did receive a call from Joe Biden, his campaign is saying he called to apologize. She's saying and I'm quoting, she was deeply unsatisfied with what they talked about.
Is that going to linger as an issue, Aimee Allison?
Yes, it will. Anita Hill was a very young and courageous law professor. When I was in college and watching the way she was treated for standing up and speaking out, he did — he allowed a lot of damage to happen in the decades since by having a cooling and chilling effect on women, black women and women everywhere in the country who dared to have the courage to speak out against harassment that they received at work.
I think there's an accounting that needs to happen on the part of Joe Biden to directly address it. So it starts with a simple apology, but needs to have very important plans to go with it. I mean, it's good that his campaign called, but if Anita Hill is not satisfied, well, I'm telling you, for women of color, we're not satisfied either.
Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, just quickly, what is it that you believe Joe Biden needs to do in order to help people come around to his explanation and his apology?
He's acknowledged that if he could go back and do it differently, he would have. But he also made sure that there were women on that Judiciary Committee so that a person would not have to face an all white male judiciary committee.
And I think the voters are going to really have to decide if the actions — because he has a long track record of many, many accomplishments, but there are also things that he has acknowledged he would do differently, and it's going to be really up to the voters to decide. And it's also going to be incumbent on him, he wants attorney people's votes, he wants to do that.
I just want to ask both of you, finally, in an era where there are younger candidates, female candidates, candidates of color, why is Joe Biden the right choice here or not? I mean, how much should it matter that he's older, that he's white and that he's a male? Aimee Allison?
That's a question we ask the eight presidential candidates as part of the She the People Forum yesterday.
We had candidates like Warren, Elizabeth Warren, the senator walked into a lukewarm reception and, 20 minutes later, standing ovation. She won over the hearts and minds of thousands of people in that room.
Bernie Sanders walked in to huge applause and left with a tepid response.
And I think what we're going to find as Joe Biden enters the race that he is really — that we could see public opinion, we can see the opinion of these key Democrats, women of color, change as he goes into these series of debates and public appearances, and we'll see because women of color are looking for strong advocates for gender, racial and economic justice. And the question is: can Joe Biden earn his vote in a crowded rich field of strong candidates?
What about this question, Congresswoman Blunt Rochester?
Well, I'm an example that representation does matter, and it is important that we have a seat at the table. I think what Joe Biden has demonstrated over the course of his career is whether it's on the issues of civil rights, human rights or women's rights, he stood up, and also whether it's about strengthening our economy, he stood up.
So what I would ask the voters and what I would ask the American people is to stay open-minded, to see his heart, see what kind of message he puts forward and let him earn your vote. He's already earned mine.
All right. We want to thank both of you. Congressman Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware and Aimee Allison of She the People — thank you both.
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