By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Politico’s no-names, no-details attack on Cain

Herman Cain

I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this, so no need to wade in too deeply just yet. But if you haven’t heard, Politico yesterday posted a story claiming that the National Restaurant Association had paid settlements to two women who said Herman Cain had sexually harassed them while he and they worked there.

It is a curious story, to say the least. There are no names — Politico says it’s protecting their identities, as though we were talking about rape victims. And though Politico reports that it has seen the documents, the details it presents are murky, to say the least.

As Dan Gillmor says, “I will believe Politico’s story when they name an actual source or two, or show documentation. Until then, it’s pure BS in my mind.”

Meanwhile, consider the headlines on these two follow-up stories:

If details and/or names aren’t forthcoming, then the far more interesting story is who dropped a dime to Politico, and why. The site has a reputation for being well-connected to what’s left of the Republican establishment. No doubt there are elements within that establishment who want Cain out of the way as soon as possible. Is this the best they’ve got?

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. BP Myers

    The article also mentioned the settlement that the two women agreed to prohibited them from going public with their accounts. Is the possibility of legal jeopardy enough for Politico to agree not to use their names? Does that make the story any less valid or truthful?

    Anyhow, I’ve managed to work for thirty years, many of them in supervisory positions, without anyone accusing me of sexual harassment. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.

    • Dan Kennedy

      BP: I’ve got two answers to that:

      1. The women didn’t talk to Politico. In that case, Politico is free to use their names. The women aren’t violating the terms of their settlements if they don’t say anything.

      2. The women did talk to Politico — and thus violated the terms of their settlements. That’s important information for the reader to have, but if that’s the case, Politico has withheld it from us.

      I guess I could live without the names if Politico would tell us what’s in the documents. You ask, “Does that make the story any less valid or truthful?” To which I would respond, What story?

  2. BP Myers

    @Dan said: “The women did talk to Politico — and thus violated the terms of their settlements. That’s important information for the reader to have, but if that’s the case, Politico has withheld it from us.”

    I think it’s blatantly obvious the women did talk to Politico, no doubt in violation of their agreement (though perhaps someone found some “wiggle room” in whatever they signed.)

    Anyway, these events didn’t happen in a vacuum, there are people out there who know who these women are, and if it hasn’t happened already, I suspect before the day is out, their names will become public.

    I suspect too that Politico will present further evidence (a heavily redacted bad photocopy description of what happened?) soon, and were just waiting for Cain to deny it ever happened so they could drop it.

    Also listened to Mark Levin last night, who intimated that these rumors have been circulating for quite a while, so it is possible it’s not a bomb dropped from another campaign.

    In terms of “What story?” . . . that two women accused him of sexual harassment which resulted in settlements. Think that still qualifies as news.

  3. C.E. Stead

    Interesting to contrast the treatment of a black conservative with a white liberal.

    How many newspapers – and for how long – sat on the John Edwards allegations in the name of ‘fairnesss’ to the candidate and campaign?

    Yet the AP went national with a ‘Have you stopped beating your wife yet?’ headline based on a thus-far unsubstantiated post on a political blog.

    And you wonder why conservatives believe there is a liberal bias in the media?

    • Dan Kennedy

      C.E.: Please. The Cain “story” was broken by Politico, a Republican house organ in many respects. Unlike the National Enquirer, which broke the Edwards story, Politico is considered reputable, which means news organizations feel free to pick up their stuff. Leave politics out of it — do you think the AP would ever run a story that begin, “The National Enquirer today reported that …”?

  4. BP Myers

    @C.E. Stead says: And you wonder why conservatives believe there is a liberal bias in the media?

    It’s beginning to appear as if this is a Karl Rove production, featuring Geraldo Rivera and Fox News.

    Best of luck incorporating that into your world view.

    • Dan Kennedy

      BP: Karl Rove was the prime suspect in this from the beginning. Politico is a virtual conveyor belt for the Rove gang, and Rove wants the unserious candidates to get out of the way.

  5. BP Myers

    @Dan: Makes sense to me. Say what you want about Rove, he does seem to be one of the few Republican movers and shakers who thinks it’s important for Republicans to, you know, actually win.

  6. Stephen Stein

    The right-wing blogosphere is full of a lot of things. And today it’s full of accusations of “liberal media bias” in this story, accusations that have even crept into this comment thread.

    I have seldom heard of something more absurd.

    Liberals would LOVE to have Cain as the Republican nominee! They’d be dancing in the streets of Chicago, and down in New Orleans.

    So, Conservatives, if you want me to buy this canard, don’t duck the issue – Qui Bono? If Cain goes down, it’s not liberals who benefit.

  7. Rich Kenney

    Cases settle for all kinda of reasons, especially economic ones. Insurers do not want to spend tons of money defending cases if there is a chance to settle it for far less. It’s a common occurrence. That’s my guess here.

  8. Bob Gardner

    I .

    Rove’s M.O. is a story that smears his candidate, but that falls apart. The result is that his candidate looks like an innocent victim, and his opponents look unprincipled.
    This is hardly a secret–anyone who has read “Bush’s Brain” knows how the technique works.

  9. Brad Deltan

    I don’t know, Stephen. Cain has foolishly tied himself to the “old boy fiscal conservatism” concept right at a time when the whole world (other than the ultra-rich) seems to be turning against it. So yes, liberals would be happy to see Cain as the nominee in that regard.

    But people vote based on emotions, and those are irrational.

    If Obama is the only black candidate, he can still channel the message of “hope” that he rode into the White House in 2008. It’s a powerful emotional message. And it still resonates with a lot of African-American voters.

    If Cain is the opponent, though, it nullifies that advantage. Makes it more about politics. Obama’s politics have been weak as hell in the emotional arena, which leaves him vulnerable in an election if he can’t fall back on more universal themes.

  10. Aaron Read

    NYtimes is reporting that Cain says there was an investigation, but it had no merit.

    Yep, we’re in stage two of the Kubler-Ross Political Scandal Metric: “Anger”. We had “Denial” yesterday. Five bucks says tomorrow we have “Bargaining” with Cain accusing someone of breaking a settlement agreement. 🙂

  11. Laurence Kranich

    If sex crimes are so horrible that we can’t bear to print the names of the accusers, then let’s not name anybody until a guilty verdict is reached.

    The way it stands now, any alleged victim can charge anybody with a sex crime and be completely anonymous while the accused, innocent until proven guilty, have their names dragged through the mud. Nobody ever comes back from that shame, completely clean, even if they’re found not guilty.

    The media should name all the names, or none at all.

  12. Stephen Stein

    @Brad – my guess is that no one is voting on “hope” this time around. If Obama wins, it’ll be because the other guy seems nuts to the majority of voters, or is insufficiently conservative enough to invite a 3rd party run from the right.

  13. Mike Benedict

    Limbaugh and others are crying foul, saying the liberal media would never have subject Obama to this scrutiny.

    If course, that same liberal media, with the help of Congress, destroyed Anita Hill, who met all the criteria the far right claims is missing this time around.

    Sorry guys. This time, a belle slayed a Cain.

  14. Sean Griffin

    The “liberal media” is the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  15. I really agree with Laurence. We have in the western world a foundation of our legal system that says youe are innocent until proven guilty. With an accusation of sexual crime this seems to have been reversed. Anybody can seeminly make an accusation and not be named whilst the accused person has to go through all sorts of hell and almost prove themselves not guilty. In the UK the number of ruined careers, particularly of teachers, is growing because of false accusations. If names are to be protected then all names including the accused should be protected until a guilty verdict is found.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Rob: Though I’m not backing down from my criticism of Politico, the journalism system is not the legal system. All of us are free to believe someone is guilty unless proven innocent. That’s just human nature. As long as we don’t run our legal system that way.

  16. Mike Benedict

    What (likely) started as a Rove whack job has morphed into Cain doing all the dirty work of euthanizing himself.,0,1085412.story

    It’s such a shame to see such a good, viable candidate just go to pieces like that.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike: I’m still not giving Politico a pass. But it’s almost like a science experiment — throw a little mud at the candidate and watch him self-destruct trying to scrape it off.

  17. Nial Lynch

    Would seem that the odds are about 100000/1 that one of the women happens to have the name Paula Jones. Please, just one time!

  18. Mike Benedict

    Proof that someone up there has a wicked sense of humor:

    On the same page as a Chicago Tribune story detailing the payments made to two women whom accused Cain of sexual harassment is a tile ad for Bad Idea t-shirts, featuring a seductive young woman who looks right out of Hooters central casting:,0,1377513.story

    I wonder if she is as tall as my wife.

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