Reporters Discover Herman Cain

News flash: Sex sells.

Candidate proposes to ban public service based on religion. The news media yawns.

Candidate proposes to electrocute Mexicans. The news media mutters.

Candidate proposes to raise taxes on 84% of the least wealthy Americans during difficult economic times. The news media mumbles.

Candidate is accused of sexual harassment. The news media ROARS!

I wonder about the proportionality here. The first three issues are very substantive. The latest issue may be, but we don’t really know yet. As far as reporters currently know, Herman Cain’s sexual harassment settlement a dozen years ago could have been about anything from a serious abuse of power to a misunderstanding. We just don’t have enough evidence at this stage.

But the harassment issue is getting much more coverage than the other substantive stumbles primarily because there are, well you know, privates involved, potentially

Yes, the issue is also being hyped because Cain is now showing better in the horse race than he was a few months ago. It is also being hyped because the political neophyte is handling the questioning like a political neophyte. However, it should be noted that Cain was a front runner during the release of 9-9-9 tax increase analyses. And if you go back to look at Cain’s responses on the Muslim and electric fence stories, he bungled those responses just as badly as yesterday’s responses.

No, the primary reason this issue is wall-to-wall on the news is pretty clear. It is because it is about s-e-x. And in America, s-e-x means r-a-t-i-n-g-s.

- Loveland

29 Responses

  1. Odds are, Cain’s sexual harassment accusers will be revealed soon and they will have to decide to break their confidential agreements to cash in on a bigger payday, appearing on morning news shows and introduced by the tick-tick-tick on 60 minutes.

    Cain’s misdeeds must raise above Anita Hill’s claim that Clarence Thomas said “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” If not, this story is going to be a snooze soon. It’s been 20 years since Hill gave her testimony during the confirmation hearings, so the bar for gossip and craving for the tawdry details is higher compared to back then.

    Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious matter. Still, when incomplete facts and information surface in an attempt to characterize a candidate’s character, the risk is that the characterization might backfire and the controversy has no legs.

    In a way, it’s good for Cain that this is coming out now, so he can weather the storm and move on afterward. It’s too early to tell if Cain has a pattern of harassing behavior. But fingers are crossed that he does and that’s the media’s motivation to start searching for more dirt.

    This episode proves once more that politics is on nasty business, and one can never be sure who are one’s enemies digging this sort of stuff up and serving it up to the media that likes sex-centered stories involving Republicans because the belief is that Republican’s are hypocritical when they make the sort of mistakes we all have the potential to make.

    • Gary:

      don’t allow your paranoia to rule your brain–the media like sex centered stories about anybody–Gary Hart and Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner and Kwame Kilpatrick and John Edwards and david patterson and Elliot Spitzer and….

      Need I go on?

      • In the examples you cite, there was plenty of hard-to-refute evidence for each of these men. And once the evidence became clear-cut, the media had no choice but to report it. Each man was busted for their naughty behaviors and poor judgement. We saw the pictures, viewed some of the evidence and heard first-hand from some of the people involved in these scandals.

        In Cain’s case as it stands today, we are still living in the he-said, she-said world even though the word “scandal” is used repeatedly to describe Cain’s situation, yet there is not a shred of evidence of sexual harassment with on-the-scene witnesses and first-hand testimony to spark any outrage.

        Today, the news is dominated by hearsay and what Herman has to says about it.

        Plus, in this day and age–and what I am getting at is–what level of naughty behavior and poor judgement will disqualify a a man or woman from becoming President of the United States?

        The standards have changed over the years and some mistakes from the past are forgiven, like binge drinking, drug use and inappropriate talk and actions. Some mea culpas are harder to swallow than others, and there outcomes are uncertain.

        If there is not proof that Cain has a pattern of harassing women in the workplace, then he will come out of this scandal demonstrating that he can handle the pressure that come with running for president.

        Worse or best case, if these were isolated incidents from many years ago, most of his supporters will carry on and this will be seen as a speed bump next year.

      • Yes, it’s true there was denial in Day One of the Cain story, so the picture is unclear. But that’s how those other scandals looked on Day One as well. There was denial in Day One of the Clinton, Wiener, Edwards, Spitzer, etc. sex scandal stories. In fact, Politico had more evidence on yesterday’s Day One than you typically see on Day One of sex scandal news stories. After all, Politico has an actual settlement agreement with money changing hands between accuser and accused’s employer. Given that, I don’t buy the accusation that Politico is being especially aggressive or unfair with Cain.

        So, I agree with you that we don’t know exactly what happened with Cain in this case. I stressed that in my post. But I disagree with your contention that the media is treating Cain more harshly because the “media that likes sex-centered stories involving Republicans because the belief is that Republican’s are hypocritical.”

        The history of political sex stories in contemporary America is that the news media likes to hype sex scandals in general, not sex stories about one party or the other.

      • With all of this talk about sex, there is zilch sexiness. From my stand-point, we are in the pre-sex-story stage. Yet, everyone’s imaginations seem to be running wild about might be the presumed inappropriate behavior.

        Where’s the Anita Hill-like person? If there is one ready to talk, along with a smoking gun, there is a story. Then, primary voters can draw there own conclusions.

        If not, this is incomplete and unsubstantiated story that is aggressive and unfair. Sex scandals, by their nature are visual, but so far, no pictures but lots of talk. Cain is perceived to be fumbling and bumbling about his messaging regarding his experience. But there has to be another shoe to drop (at least we hope so).

        Are there perceptions that liberals are more “open” to open experiences than “closed minded” conservatives? You bet. Open experiences, in part, can include openness to sexual experiences. When someone is pinned the label of being “closed minded” yet encroaches “open-experience” behavior, the cry of hypocrisy echoes loudly. Larry Craig is a good example of being labeled a hypocrite because he was a Republican arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s bathroom, not just a senator arrested for lewd conduct.

        When it comes to sex, liberals are perceived to have different attitudes than conservatives. This perception is evident in the news coverage of sex trouble on the part of a candidate or elected politician of either party.

        Frankly, there is too much content like this video floating around the Internet to make me think otherwise.

        Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

    • Oh, and for all of those foolish enough to believe what Rush Limbaugh has to say, here is the background about the” left wing”, lame stream media that exposed this tidbit about Cain…..

      http://www.salon.com/2007/05/04/politico_funding/

  2. No, the Cain harassment story gets newsplay because Cain has intruded upon the pre-scripted race between the two guys who are always positioned next to each other (so the camera can frame them together) in the middle of the lineup (so they can address each other without talking across anyone else) in the Republican “debates”.

    In other words, the accusation against Cain gets newsplay for the same reason that Ron Paul’s straw poll victories get none.

    • Gary Hart, Jon Grunseth, Bill Clinton, Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford might be among those who see it differently.

  3. Right now the interesting thing about this story is the way that the talk radio right is circling the wagons and playing the victim game….It would be really interesting (and fascinating) if this story helped Cain in the primaries, giving him a “sympathy” vote edge.

    I’m kind of hoping that it does…..;-)

  4. so, the worst thing that could really happen to Herman Cain would be to win the nomination?

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/11/everything_is_working_out_for.html

    maybe the real parallel is with Juan Williams, not Clarence Thomas.

  5. But heaven forbid we consider Hillary in 2012…it’s a ludicrous proposal that none of you take seriously, I’ll bet.

    • If Secretary of State Clinton was taking the possibility seriously, I’d take it very seriously. I just don’t spend a lot of time talking about a Hillary Clinton candidacy because it looks as if she has firmly taken it off the table.

      • Joe: I think you’re probably right. Still, I’m so discouraged by the current crop of – well, losers? – that it’s hard not to be disheartened. Do we have even one leader in this nation who’s willing to step up? Where is he or she? Thinking..thinking..thinking…

    • Hillary and Barack are two peas of the same Third Way political pod, which is why I thought the pitched battles between their respective hyper-partisans were so silly. Obama is being zinged for being willing, if not outright eager, to cut Social Security; meanwhile Bill Clinton had cut a deal with Newt Gingrich in late 1997 to put Social Security on the “reform” (meaning chopping) block, and the only thing that stopped this from actually happening was Monica Lewinsky:

      http://firedoglake.com/2010/05/18/how-monica-lewinsky-saved-social-security-clinton-gingrich-bowles-and-the-pact/

  6. I thought that this was an interesting view of the state of the Republican primaries…

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-insiders/post/two-contests-for-the-gop-nomination/2011/10/20/gIQAPfGEAM_blog.html

  7. With 5 potential accusers, it would appear that Herman’s support among the thinking right is starting to fail
    (http://spectator.org/blog/2011/11/02/cain-in-trouble/), and others are pointing out his inept responses
    (http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/11/03/the-herman-cain-campaign-is-stuck-on-stupid/)

    Still I doubt that the Rush’s and the Hannity’s are going to abandon him–they love the “left is racist” meme too much, and they simply are immune to the delicious irony of their own convoluted positions (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/01/the-right-s-absurd-herman-cain-race-card.html)

  8. I’m more inclined to think there is something behind the harassment charges today than I was on Tuesday. There are more accusers, and, more significantly, Cain refuses to say “I don’t have any problem with the National Restaurant Association waiving the confidentiality agreement and allowing these women to speak.” The fact that Cain refuses to do that raises my suspicion level.

    If Cain is innocent, he clearly isn’t helping himself. He has broken just about every crisis communications rule there is for innocent people, such as:

    1) Be prepared for highly predictable lines of attack.
    2) No rolling disclosures to give the story legs.
    3) Be accurate.
    4) Communicate transparency and non-defensiveness, both verbally and non-verbally.

    Cain has been textbook bad with his crisis communications. If he is innocent, he has hurt himself with his communications strategy.

  9. CNN is reporting that Cain is now considering suing Politico. This may or may not be a good legal strategy. (It seems lame to me, but I’ll leave that to legal experts.)

    But legal strategy aside, it’s bad PR strategy. A lawsuit “gives the story legs.” That is, every step of the legal process for months and months garners another set of news stories that repeat the sexual harassment allegations. They need this story to die, not build a new stage for it.

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/04/cain-campaign-considers-lawsuit/

    • Assuming that he is going to sue them for slander (or something similar), it is a pretty stupid thing to do. If it is the truth, then it is not slander. And they (Politico) will be able to subpeona pretty much everything and everyone, including all of the details that are currently confidential.

      But this isn’t too surprising–Cain really is not handling this like a political professional–because he is not. I simply do not think that he is trying to win–he is worrying about his brand right now (and his show on Fox). Of course, maybe being pugnacious will help–and blustering about a potential lawsuit might help (without actually filing a lawsuit).

  10. At least Cain didn’t rape or drown anyone.

  11. I’m thinking we will soon see malleable Mitt, the master of conservative reverse engineering, sexually harass someone so he can blame the liberal media and surge in the polls and fundraising like Mr. Cain.

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