Herman Cain got the Clarence Thomas treatment, beginning last night. It didn’t work then, and it is even less likely to work today.
The specific allegation against Herman Cain
The facts, as nearly as anyone can find them, are these: fifteen years ago, Herman Cain led the National Restaurant Association. Two female employees complained that he behaved inappropriately toward them. And what was that behavior? Nothing “overtly sexual,” nor anything more serious than licking his lips as he talked to them.
They complained to some of their fellow workers in the NRA’s offices, and to senior NRA executives. Each one resigned from the NRA. Each one may, or may not, have received a more-than-typically-generous lump-sum severance check.
Such are the facts, or as much as Herman Cain will confirm. Politico.com released a four-page story yesterday evening at about 9:45 p.m. EDT.
Problems with the Politico account
The account in Politico.com has its own problems. First, they rely entirely on anonymous sources. Those at the NRA willing to put their names on their comments, all say they never heard of this incident. They also spoke very highly of Herman Cain’s character. Politico did print those comments—on the last page. That is where web sites commonly bury non-supporting material.
Reaction by Herman Cain and his campaign
At first Herman Cain did not want to talk about it. Spokesman J. D. Gordon said that Cain was “vaguely familiar” with the charges. Then he said that the charges were “old and tired allegations that never stood up to the facts.”
Today, Cain said something more definite. No, he had never “sexually harassed” anyone. Yes, two people did accuse him of that—falsely. He also expressed mild outrage that either person had received anything like a “settlement.”
I hope it wasn’t much, because I didn’t do anything!
No other persons at the NRA have ever lodged any such complaints. And if anyone were to hear of any, “they would be trumped-up charges.”
The only reason to believe any part of this story is that Herman Cain admits that some of it happened. Specifically he admits that two women did accuse him of sexual harassment, and they left his employ shortly afterward.
The payments (in five figures, according to Politico) that the two women received were not settlements in the usual sense. A settlement is a way to settle a lawsuit without a judgment. These women did not sue; instead, NRA executives paid them a generous severance and asked them not to talk about it anymore.
What these women received were remittances. A remittance is an answer to a simple question: “How much can I/we pay you to get lost?” The most important single reason that anyone pays remittances today, is that one can bring a lawsuit in any court in the land, and allege almost anything, true or false, without risk. At least in the United Kingdom, the loser pays the attorneys’ fees of the winner.
Had this story had any truth to it, those two women would not have “settled” for a mere remittance. They could have received an award that would have let them live like princesses for the rest of their lives. Five figures? Seven figures would be more likely.
Finally, the real reason this is happening is that Herman Cain is walking the path that Clarence Thomas walked. He has walked that path all his life. Like Thomas, Cain grew up poor and worked his way to success. And, like Thomas, he says openly that if he can do it, anyone can.
What happens next?
This case will probably go nowhere. True, the mainstream press might try to make an issue of a fifteen-year-old case that ended in two remittance payments. But they’re not the only press in existence. The alternative press will remind them, as Rush Limbaugh did today, of their double standards.
And the mainstream press does keep a double standard. Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) sent a photograph of his most private part to an acquaintance on Twitter.com. He was foolish enough to prefix the “@” sign instead of the capital D (for Direct Message) to the name of the person to whom he meant to send the photo. Result: all his followers got the photo, including many who were not his friends. The mainstream press did their best to cover this up (pun intended). No joy; that photo was all over the Internet within hours. So the mainstream press then blamed Weiner’s ideological opponents for the scandal, and some news organs blamed others for mentioning it. (Since when does a newspaper, when a rival paper “scoops” it, blame the rival for the scoop?)
Even when they held a monopoly on what was newsworthy and what wasn’t, Clarence Thomas’ detractors could not stop him. Herman Cain’s detractors will not stop him, either. Not in an age of alternative media, they won’t.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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