2012 Tuesday: The response, not the allegations, got the worst of Cain

Welcome to the big time, Herman Cain.

One of the ugly sides of politics is that people perceived as threats tend to have mud thrown their way. And the definition of mud is a thinly — and anonymously — sourced story that just happens to land on the evening before a fast-rising candidate is due to get some positive “earned” media (meaning news coverage they get for talking about their ideas, as Cain did yesterday in Washington).

It’s clear that someone, somewhere, considers Cain’s spike in the opinion polls something more than a temporary blip.

I will issue a caveat here that there could well be more details and facts to come out about the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Cain while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Without such details and facts, I’m not very troubled by these allegations alone: They’re just allegations that, from what we know so far, seem not to have had much merit. But if they do come out, and they are bad for Cain, he will have a serious problem on his hands.

Absent such revelations, the biggest problem for Cain is one of his own creation — and undoubtedly the precise problem hoped for by whoever brought the allegations to the Politico reporters’ attention. I’m talking about his response.

Cain’s biggest asset as a candidate is not so much his 9-9-9 plan, because all such plans are subject to change. It’s his credibility: as an “outsider,” as a genuine man and authentic conservative, as a trustworthy and respectable human being.

If you’re Herman Cain, that credibility has taken almost 67 years to build, and you are the person best capable of throwing it all away.

Had Cain immediately acknowledged the two settlements, noted that they were small and based on unproven charges, and explained his side of the story, I and others probably wouldn’t be writing about them today. But for whatever reason — because his advisers gave him bad advice, because he thought he could put a lid on the story with a less-complete explanation, because he’s so convinced of his innocence in the cases — he didn’t do an adequate job. (This kind of thing is one reason I’ve had my doubts that, in the year 2011, the presidency could be the first elected office a candidate had ever won.)

Instead, his story has, to put it charitably, evolved over the past 36 hours. And he’s fallen back on a tactic we’ve seen on stories such as his stances on abortion and on swapping prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for captured American troops: chalking it up to not hearing the question properly or his choice of words being misinterpreted.

On its own, a story based on innuendo from second-hand sources probably wouldn’t have been enough to drag Cain down. Cain’s response may ultimately hurt him more with GOP primary voters.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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241 comments Add your comment

ragnar danneskjold

November 1st, 2011
12:21 pm

I am biased, an early Cain supporter. I believe the kerfuffle will not matter to thinkers – much ado about nothing – and I forecast that Herman will still run even with Romney in next week’s polls. How can anyone care about “you are about the same height as my wife” with a non-sexual gesture?

Will

November 1st, 2011
12:31 pm

Republican newspaper writters and radio/tv entertainers are a hoot!

Let’s see, these folks DEMANDED that President Obama submit proof for their reivew in order to determine if he is an American citizen. Had to have this proof or else the lack of proof would prove he is not an American citizen.

Herman Cain says he will not ask the NRA to release any details about the allegations and pay off related to inappropriate behavior. So what do these same republican radio/tv entertainers now say? That’s good enough for them. If Herman says it did not happen, it did not happen. No proof needed here. Don’t confuse me with the facts because I know Herman is being truthful because he says he is being truthful.

He may be telling the truth but let’s take a look at the NRA investigation that he says he will not ask to be released. Let’s look at the “proof” or is “proof” only needed when it relates to the President of the United States?

It seems that “character counts” only if applied to democrats, not republicans.

This will all be a moot point when real republicans show up and vote for Mitt Romney, a businessman who can appeal to the swing voters and is the only republican who can win the White House next November.

CJ

November 1st, 2011
12:32 pm

Kyle: “On its own, a story based on innuendo from second-hand sources probably wouldn’t have been enough to drag Cain down.

The story is not based on “innuendo”. Those “second-hand sources” provided facts.

Below is an excerpt from the original reporting from Politico, the outlet that broke this story (an outlet that liberals despise, incidentally). After several denials and after blaming the “liberal media”, Cain has finally admitted that the story is entirely accurate.

From the Politico piece–

“During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/67194.html#ixzz1cTJ7jV9L

MarkV

November 1st, 2011
12:46 pm

Kyle, I could agree with you that “they’re just allegations that, from what we know so far, seem not to have had much merit.” I am not sure why you think the allegations do not seem to have much merit, but that is a minor point.

What is not a minor point is you allegation that “ undoubtedly the precise problem hoped for by whoever brought the allegations to the Politico reporters’ attention.” Undoubtedly? What is your evidence of that?

DawgDad

November 1st, 2011
12:46 pm

“Cain’s response may ultimately hurt him more with GOP primary voters.”

I’m starting to wonder if this story wasn’t put out by the CAIN campaign, based on the response of his supporters (money pouring into his coffers).

As long as this story remains nothing more than political hit-piece innuendo Cain will profit from it. Most of his supporters and much of the GOP base has seen this kind of thing before, and it’s as sleazy as journalism can get.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 1st, 2011
12:48 pm

Will, you don’t think your little narrative couldn’t be turned around on you? Where WAS all that Democrat curiosity about Obozo’s relationship with domestic terrorists? Was Obozo’s denial good enough fou you?

Hypocrite.

MarkV

November 1st, 2011
12:50 pm

“How can anyone care about “you are about the same height as my wife” with a non-sexual gesture?”

How can anyone ignore that the above was the only thing Cain “remembered.” How can anyone think that the above allegation was the only reason for a settlement with two women?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 1st, 2011
12:50 pm

Cain could have put it out there just to have it over and done with sooner rather than later.

the

November 1st, 2011
12:50 pm

The response to Cain’s responses get big ratings. Cain matters. We can’t help talking about him. He’s black, so he’s today. He’s black so he’s teflon. He’s black so he’s got legs.

I would vote for Cain but only if I’m sure he really did schtoop those interns. I want want my prez 2B a real man, not a wisp of smoke like W was.

Nobody would have believed that W came on to anyone, at anytime during the ridiculously thin paper-trail that makes up his idiotic life.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
12:52 pm

@Ragnar – You argued pretty forcefully yesterday on Bookman’s blog that Cain’s early story about having no clue about any settlement was reasonable. Here’s a quote from you yesterday morning “I find Cain’s story completely reasonable, that he recused himself from further participation in the matter.”

A few hours later he not only was aware of the settlements but was able to detail how many women, what he may have said that was offensive, approximately how much each woman was paid in salary and seemed to have a decent idea as to how much the settlements actually were. Not only that but he could not say for sure whether or not he may have signed settlement documents.

I get that you are a Cain fan but after defending him so vigorously yesterday are you truly not concerned at all to now find out that his original story, which you believed to the point of publicly defending it, was false?

Yesterdays defense was “he’s telling the truth”. Today, after finding out he wasn’t, you fall back to “much ado about nothing”????? Come on man.

ByteMe

November 1st, 2011
12:56 pm

You’d think politicians would get it: the cover-up is almost always worse than the original issue.

Oh, that’s right: Cain’s not a politician. He’s using his campaign to sell books. Not sure this is helping that goal either.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 1st, 2011
12:57 pm

Looks like someone forgot to change their sockpuppet.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
12:58 pm

@LBB – President Obama’s relationship with Ayers was all over the news for weeks and was brought up at every possible opportunity by every talking head. Everyone in the country knows about it, knows the details and still he was elected.

I fail to see the relevance to bringing it up here other than, as usual, to continue your ability to objectively comment about the topic at hand.

I guess Kyle is now part of the “liberal media” since he is writing about Cain’s problem.

Darwin

November 1st, 2011
1:02 pm

Right wingers concerned about sexual harrassment charges? That’s like not voting for a right wing candidate because he belongs to an all white country club.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 1st, 2011
1:04 pm

That’s right Blue, and the story generally ended with Obozo denying the relationship and the reporter doing his/her Emily Litella impersonation…”oh…OK…never mind!”

Kyle Wingfield

November 1st, 2011
1:04 pm

Will, if you’re referring to me with that “Republican newspaper writers” line and relating it to the birthers, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The only times I ever wrote about the president’s birth certificate were to criticize the birthers.

Kyle Wingfield

November 1st, 2011
1:05 pm

MarkV: “Undoubtedly” means I have no doubt in my mind. But I could have written that more clearly.

Kyle Wingfield

November 1st, 2011
1:06 pm

And I said they don’t seem to have much merit based on what we know now — but that’s why I included the caveat.

Kyle Wingfield

November 1st, 2011
1:07 pm

Darwin: Not concerned based on the available evidence. As I wrote in the OP, that could change if more facts come out.

AT

November 1st, 2011
1:08 pm

I’m a bit biased too, but it doesn’t worry me that Herman Cain doesn’t play perfectly with “Gotcha” media tactics. The abortion comment incident illustrates it better. He’ s been strictly pro-life forever, but the media jumps on one comment, makes a story out of nothing and runs with it.

A severance package for a dissatisfied employee is nothing out of the ordinary. You have to ask better questions: if it was also sexual harassment, why settle for something so small, why are there no sources named, what exactly did HC do? CEOs have much deeper pockets. There should be some smoke to a fire such as this. The “Gotcha” media tactic doesn’t care however, and the truth isn’t the point anyway.

There’s something pleasing to his behavior towards the media games. It seems he isn’t so focused on stupid games. But again, probably just my bias…

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
1:13 pm

OK so here’s Cain on the radio a couple of hours ago explaining why on Monday morning he had no clue at all about anything and on Monday evening he had details.

“As I thought about it and thought about it, I did recall an agreement with the lady who left who made the false accusations. When I was initially hit with this and trying to stay focused on my day, I didn’t recall that. So yes, there was an agreement that I later added to my explanation.”

When asked about him and his campaign knowing about the story for more than a week he said he made a “conscious decision not to respond until it came out.”

According to Cain, he knew about the story for more than a week, chose not only to not respond but chose to not even think about the issue until he was being questioned about it a full 12 hours after the story was published. Only after being questioned did he remember the details, even though he knew for more than a week it was going to be published.

Ok Cain supporters, serious question, does this pass the reality test for you?

ByteMe

November 1st, 2011
1:15 pm

Ok Cain supporters, serious question, does this pass the reality test for you?

Doesn’t matter. Your favorite team can suck, but it’s still your team. Think “Cubs fans”. It’s not about who is the best candidate for President… it’s about identifying with a team/tribe.

MarkV

November 1st, 2011
1:16 pm

“I’m a bit biased too, but it doesn’t worry me that Herman Cain doesn’t play perfectly with “Gotcha” media tactics. The abortion comment incident illustrates it better. He’ s been strictly pro-life forever, but the media jumps on one comment, makes a story out of nothing and runs with it.”

That is a complete distortion of the facts. One comment? Cain repeatedly stated that the government should not intervene in the abortion decision, and that the decision should be left to the person involved and her family, before he switched to the final position against legal abortion.

DawgDad

November 1st, 2011
1:16 pm

“You’d think politicians would get it: the cover-up is almost always worse than the original issue.”

I’ve read the Politico pieces and some other sources and heard the Cain soundbites. Nowhere have I seen ANY sign of a “cover-up” nor have I heard ANY backtracking by Cain. I have heard some [minimal] clarification and update on what he knows/remembers/has been informed of from Cain in the sound bites.

I sense a lot of political commentators and journalists are hearing what they want to hear, not what is being said. The published innuendo plays to people’s ignorance of how business operates when employees levy these types of charges, especially in termination proceedings. Having myslef been falsely accused by employees being terminated for cause does frame my view that it is wholly irresponsible journalism to throw out this innuendo without substantiating the underlying claims. Allegations prove NOTHING. Have all of you married men stopped beating your wives yet?

TaxIssuesAlso?

November 1st, 2011
1:17 pm

Next will be business tax liens discovered on the public record for Cain as corporate officer of Little Caesars. They are out there. For sales tax and employee withholding tax. Do a little more digging Kyle.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
1:19 pm

@LBB – Not true that Obama denied the relationship. Obama said he knew him two times in this one quote. Here is what he said in an interview on ABC:

“This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George.”

ByteMe

November 1st, 2011
1:19 pm

DawgDad, you’re really not hearing everything that he’s been saying. This is the timeline as of this morning for his responses:

1. Politico allegations are false. Story is crap.

2. Yes, there were allegations. But they were false.

3. Yes there were allegations that were false and I don’t know what money was paid.

4. I don’t know whether money was paid. And it would be wrong for me to find out whether money was paid because it’s confidential.

5. There was a in-depth investigation. And I was cleared. But I don’t know anything about it.

6. Here’s the gesture that led to my getting accused of harassment.

7. Okay, I remember some discussion of a settlement number.

And I think the latest is that he thinks the person was paid 3-6 months salary to drop the allegations.

If he would just get honest already and talk about it and not change his story with every interview, this would go away so much faster and we could get back to our regularly scheduled discussion of whether he’s really just selling books or running a Presidential campaign.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
1:23 pm

@ DawgDad – “Nowhere have I seen ANY sign of a “cover-up” nor have I heard ANY backtracking by Cain. I have heard some [minimal] clarification and update on what he knows/remembers/has been informed of from Cain in the sound bites.”

You haven’t seen ANY backtracking? In the space of 8 hours he said “I am unaware of any settlement” to “I was aware an agreement was reached”.

Also this morning he admitted he knew about the story for a week. I assume I can mark you down as one that thinks it is believable that Cain knew this story was coming for a week but did not even think about it until 12 hours after it was posted and he was being questioned about it?

I remember when...

November 1st, 2011
1:24 pm

I believe Ragnar has in the past insisted he was a lawyer. A lawyer would know that a single, innocuous comment about height wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar in a sexual harrassment claim. If that’s what Cain supporters are hanging their hat on, they are as delusional as…well, Ragnar.

DawgDad

November 1st, 2011
1:26 pm

Byte: So, where in that is he changing his story? You’re assuming nothing happens between each of those statements, like him following up to expand his recollection, or him speaking with other people who may have informed him of some things he didn’t know or forgot. I was involved in terminating a female employee many years ago, for cause, and she levied [completely false] charges of sexual harrassment. I don’t even remember her name.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
1:28 pm

@DawgDad – Cain said on Laura Ingram this morning he knew the story was coming for a week and made a “conscious decision not to respond until it was published”. IN that week he didn’t try to get all the facts together so that he could respond truthfully???? Come on man!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 1st, 2011
1:28 pm

See, Blue, you just did it too. Where’s your incredulity? Where’s your curiosity?

Blue: “oh…OK…never mind!”

Kyle Wingfield

November 1st, 2011
1:30 pm

CJ: Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a similar take from an outlet liberals don’t despise.

(For the record, more than a few conservatives “despise” Politico, too. I’m not one of them, but the pattern seems to be: Write something critical of liberals, liberals don’t like it; write something critical of conservatives, conservatives don’t like it. Go figure.)

Seanus Romney

November 1st, 2011
1:33 pm

Ok, I’ll admit it. I released the story to Politico.

Even though he strapped my cage to the roof of the car and hosed me off after I soiled the car, he still fed me, took me to the Vet when I was sick, kept me inside during the cold Massachusetts winters. And gave me a dog biscuit every once in a while.

Please forgive me, I was only serving my master.

AT

November 1st, 2011
1:33 pm

Mark V,

Repeatedly? One interview “caused” a news cycle where he was asked the same question over and over again. Not one reporter/interviewer asked him if his position had changed from his stance over the past 30+ years. Why? Because they didn’t bother or care to find out. They ran with the sound byte and tried to make news out of it. The appearance of him being pro-choice in the face of so many years to the contrary makes my point. It only makes a difference if you are playing the “Gotcha” games.

Blue Man on a Red Island

November 1st, 2011
1:33 pm

@LBB – When the Ayers story came out in 2008 I was very interested in it and read quite a bit about it. In the end, I decided I believed what Obama said. Of course, that was more than 3 years ago so this morning I am not curious at all about it.

Where is your curiosity on Herman since you have not commented at all on the actual topic of this blog? No incredulity or curiosity at all? No comment on Cain?

carlosgvv

November 1st, 2011
1:34 pm

I don’t think this will drag Cain down. After all, Perry was charged with going to a club where the N word was displayed. That was news for a few weeks and then just went away. Short term memory loss?

The Truth

November 1st, 2011
1:37 pm

Herman Cain: “Do you want to come up to my hotel room for some 9,9,9?” When asked about this allegation, Herman Cain says, “That, I do not recollect, I have no recollection of this…”

Wow… Talk about a bonafied liar.

mike

November 1st, 2011
1:39 pm

There is nothing to these allegatuions. Just typical routine republican activities. There was the congress man who signed himself into a mental hospital after it was found out he was running after the senate pages. About ole player Newt, he has done so much we don’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. And the repub governor who vanished to see his girlfriend in South America. This is just what the conservatives do on a daily basis.

BullDawg Rick

November 1st, 2011
1:39 pm

No matter how you “spin” it –

Cain Can (& will) in 2011

Junior Samples

November 1st, 2011
1:43 pm

The election is in 2012.

Jefferson

November 1st, 2011
1:45 pm

Is that who you really want ?

TBone

November 1st, 2011
1:45 pm

The stigma of a sexual harassment allegation is gradual losing its lustre for feminists. At one time a sexual harassment claim had its place but I now know many men including myself who have been wrongly accused. It’s not about groping and grabbing and telling off color jokes but about “creating a hostile work environment” and other such nonsense. Once a colleague alleges the behavior; you might as well start looking for other work. There are more than a few folks out there looking for a pay day one way or the other. Go Herman!

Gman

November 1st, 2011
1:46 pm

ByteMe, your comment of… “Doesn’t matter. Your favorite team can suck, but it’s still your team. Think “Cubs fans”. It’s not about who is the best candidate for President… it’s about identifying with a team/tribe.” sums up politics in the state of Geogia to a “T”!

the

November 1st, 2011
1:50 pm

Filter

November 1st, 2011
1:51 pm

If there was a settlement then it almost certainly contained a clause in the settlement that prohibited the recipient of the settlement from making any public statement on it. It’s a sad fact that these clauses offer a form of cover to the accused, allowing them to decry the use of “anonymous sources”.

For a recent example look at the events surrounding Eddie Long. Charges levied, denials made, settlement reached containing confidentiality clause, subsequently the victims decide they cannot, in fact, stay silent so they talk, attorney’s for Long come calling looking for the money back.

I have no idea if Cain harassed these women or not. But if I recall correctly we spent months and months and untold millions to uncover every sordid detail of the Lewinsky affair. At that point the GOP decided that these things matter and need to be fully investigated and spewed into the public consciousness. If seems suspiciously disingenuous for that same group to now dismiss this matter out of hand after two days. We need to get Ken Starr back in the saddle.

the

November 1st, 2011
1:52 pm

Cain has legs. He’s the one who should be worried about sexual harrasment from superiors, like say, Bachman, Palin, or you-know-who…..

Filter

November 1st, 2011
1:53 pm

My post disappeared? Why?

Filter

November 1st, 2011
1:53 pm

Actually it never appeared.

Charles

November 1st, 2011
1:56 pm

Karl Rove (the kingmaker) made it perfectly clear last week that Cain would NOT be the nominee. Went so far as to hold up a list of reason as he read them off. This story sounds like his handiwork if you ask me. Why would it be far-fectched to believe that he would send this kind of information to Politico or Huffington Post for that matter. His objective would be to get the word out regardless of the outlet used. While Politico isn’t really liberal (they endorsed Bush and McCain), people who support Cain will say that it is.

The fact is, Cain started the day acting like thre was nothing to the story. He had very few facts. By the end of the day, instead of sticking with his story, he told more than was in the story. He’s not a politican, but that’s only because he hasn’t been elected to a political office. He won’t this time either. Nor do I believe he really had a chance before this. The Repubs aren’t ready for two black men being President back to back.