Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Tuesday blamed “white man’s culture” for the persistence of sexual assaults against women in America.
“It’s an institution, a culture, a white man’s culture. It’s got to change,” Mr. Biden said at an award ceremony for students working to end rape on college campuses.
He took on the culture of men and white men in particular as he prepared to enter a crowded Democratic presidential race, which includes several women and black candidates.
Mr. Biden said that recent sexual assault allegations aired at confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh showed that very little had changed since Anita Hill made similar allegations during Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings in 1991.
“In 30 years, the culture hasn’t changed,” Mr. Biden said at the event at the Russian Tea Room, which was co-hosted by his own Biden Foundation that is focused on ending violence against women.
Mr. Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Ms. Hill testified and Republican senators challenged her story.
“To this day, I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us,” said Mr. Biden. “She paid a terrible price. She was abused through the hearing, she was taken advantage of, her reputation was attacked.”
Noting his vote against Justice Thomas, he said he wished he had done more.
Mr. Biden, 76, has a long record of working to protect women. As a senator in 1990, he introduced the Violence Against Women Act that imposed tough, automatic sentences on people convicted of violent crimes against women.
He delivered the remarks at the presentation of the Biden Courage Awards. The awards, from the It’s On Us movement and the Biden Foundation, recognize students who are working to stop sexual assault on college campuses.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama founded It’s On Us in 2014 with a mission to stop college sexual assaults. Mr. Biden and Jill Biden, his wife, founded the Biden Foundation in 2017.
Mr. Biden is expected to enter the Democratic presidential race next month as the clear front-runner. He has a formidable fundraising operation and the appeal among Democrats of being President Obama’s sidekick for eight years.
Mr. Biden, who spent more than 30 years representing Delaware in the Senate, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008.
This time, polls confirm his advantage at this early stage of the race.
A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Biden in the lead with 35 percent support, followed by Sen. Bernard Sanders at 25 percent and the rest in single digits.
Celebrity speakers at the event included actress Connie Britton. The “Friday Night Lights” star has already thrown her support behind Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who built her political brand on fighting sexual assault in the military and workplace sexual harassment.
Ms. Britton is a childhood friend of Ms. Gillibrand. She introduced Ms. Gillibrand at a campaign kickoff rally Sunday in front of Trump International Hotel in New York.
Ms. Gillibrand, New York Democrat, barely registers in the polls.
Mr. Biden has been teasing his entry into the crowded field of more than a dozen rivals.
In an apparent verbal slip, Mr. Biden last week counted himself in the race by saying he was the most progressive record of “anybody running.”
He quickly corrected himself, saying, “anybody who would run” and made the Catholic Sign of the Cross. The slip delighted the crowd at the Delaware Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, which is his home state.
Mr. Biden’s Catholic faith and working-class roots in Pennsylvania are considered strength in a general election competition with President Trump for blue-collar voters.
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