Earlier this month, Herman Cain told the protesters occupying Wall Street that “if you don’t have a job…blame yourself.” I hope he takes his own advice and accepts personal responsibility if he loses his job as a presidential candidate. This morning Politico dropped the bombshell that may well derail the surging the Cain Train. The report said that he had been accused of sexually harassing two women while he led the National Restaurant Association from 1996-1999.
Cain and his team initially stonewalled, but belatedly responded to the accusations: “I have never sexually harassed anyone – anyone,” said Cain. “And absolutely these are false allegations.”
This may be true, but the manner in which it was handled from the outset makes it appear as if Cain has something to hide. At first Cain’s campaign dodged questions by making it appear as if the candidate was unaware of past allegations. Cain spokesperson J.D. Gordon told Politico that the candidate indicated that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges.
This is just nonsense. If one is unjustly accused of sexual harassment it has to be a jarring experience, not one that is brushed aside or easily forgotten. The only way Cain is “vaguely familiar” with the charges is if he is a serial harasser and has had so many victims that he can’t keep track of them.
Cain’s next implausible move was to take the “I’m too important and busy to notice” defense. He claimed that he wasn’t aware of allegations because he “had thousands of people working for me” over the decades at various enterprises.
Yeah, and I’ve eaten thousands of meals that I can’t remember, but I do recall the few that gave me food poisoning – in the same way that Cain would remember the two women who accused him of being a sexual menace.
Next, Cain said he could not comment, “Until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” What’s with the word parsing from a candidate who promised not to behave like a traditional politician? Why was it so difficult to refrain from equivocating and to simply tell the truth?
The embattled candidate then tried classic denial: “I am not going to comment on that.” Finally, an exasperated and heavy breathing Cain glared at a questioning reporter and tried to turn the tables by brazenly asking, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
It appears that Herman Cain doesn’t understand that it is irrelevant if the reporter was drunk and had just come from a birthday party where cake was consumed off the tan buttocks of a stoned stripper. The reporter isn’t an avowed Christian conservative running for President of the United States in the puritanical “family values” party.
Let me put it in simplistic branding language that Cain might comprehend: Don’t bill yourself as a pepperoni pizza if you are actually a submarine sandwich. Either you are who you say you are – or you’re just another self-righteous Republican phony.
The fact that he dissembled on such a clear-cut issue and couldn’t answer basic questions on whether he sexually harassed employees is a really bad sign.
The other troubling aspect of the situation is that Herman Cain appears completely unaware that both women left the NRA receiving separation packages that were in the five-figure range.
“If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much,” Cain told Fox News. “If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association.”
I’m sorry, but this man was not a lowly office assistant – he was the CEO. I have a difficult time believing that the politically ambitious Cain doesn’t know more about how these potentially career ending allegations were resolved. While he may not remember the specific dollar amounts of these legal settlements, it is improbable that he did not know that they had occurred. After all, as the man in charge, what did he think happened to the money that disappeared from his budget and landed into the bank accounts of his accusers?
Mr. self-reliance also loses points for playing the “liberal media” card. A statement on Cain’s campaign website says “inside-the-Beltway media” and “political trade press” are “casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up as facts.”
No, these reporters are just doing their jobs, in much the same way that they grilled Democrats Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Gary Hart and Elliott Spitzer when allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced.
I’m not sure if Cain is innocent or guilty, but I do know he has to do a better job of crisis management. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive should know the old axiom: If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”