Wednesday, November 2, 2011

High Tech Lynching?

High tech lynching: it's a phrase we've been hearing a lot lately in reference to the media's treatment of Herman Cain and a possible scandal involving sexual harassment allegations. It all started Sunday night with Politico reporting that 2 women had accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment back in the 1990s when Mr. Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association. This is the first time Herman Cain has faced such intense media scrutiny since he started leading the polls and many on the right are calling this a smear effort by the "liberal leftwing media".

Now call it what you want to, but if you're running for President of the United States and you have a sexual harassment claim in your past, especially a situation where multiple accusers were actually paid off, are you really going to be surprised if that comes out at some point during the campaign? Do you really think any media organization worth their salt is going to ignore it if they run across that story? Of course that is going to come out. There's no way it couldn't. It's too juicy, it's too scandalous, and it's the perfect counter-story to the candidate that seemed perfect.

Right now we don't have all the details of the allegations, or if there's any merit to them at all. We're giving Herman Cain the benefit of the doubt that he didn't sexually harass these women. But the Cain camp has made a lot of terrible mistakes in dealing with this campaign crisis. Cain started out as a second-tier candidate, seemingly having not a chance of hell at winning. Right now he's leading the polls but it looks like his campaign is still staffed by second rate people and is still being run as a second rate campaign.

They didn't have a plan to deal with this, demonstrated by the fact that their response to it changed many times within the same day. First he refused to comment on it at all, evidently expecting the whole thing to just blow over. He was forced to address it when pressure started mounting but it was handled very poorly.


In an appearance on Fox News — his first of the day — Cain said that he had been “falsely accused” of sexual harassment and was unaware of financial settlements with any accusers.
But by the end of the day, Cain had reversed himself on many of the essential facts of the case, telling both PBS’s Judy Woodruff and Fox’s Greta Van Susteren that there had been cash payouts to a woman who accused him “falsely” of harassment.
Cain’s confirmation of a settlement clashed with his earlier comments denying any awareness of a financial agreement with one or more accusers.
Now we're seeing conservatives quickly coming to Cain's defense - and he certainly could use support from his base in this difficult time in his campaign. The narrative from the right is that Cain is being targeted by the left because they hate seeing a black man succeed; they can't stand black Republicans and will do everything they can to stop them "just like they did with Clarence Thomas". To some extent that could very well be true (we did see some of this earlier by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell). Most blacks in America vote Democratic and the black Republicans could be seen as somewhat of an outcast or someone confused and not in touch with the rest of the group. But in this instance what we're seeing is pretty par for the course for political coverage. When you run for president you get highly scrutinized by the media. And if you have something like a sexual harassment allegation and payoff in your past you better believe that's going to come out and be reported. And you are going to be questioned about it, and no, it's not going to just go away in one day.

We get the support of Cain and those that are defending him, but it's getting a little ridiculous when people start calling this a high tech lynching. It's not any better than when people use Hitler comparisons. We've heard the phrase being tossed around by several prominent right wingers from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage to Herman Cain's Super PAC.

There has been one refreshing voice of reason in all this and it comes from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. From

"I actually am someone who-- doesn't believe in playing the race card on either side. I've seen it played, by the way, on the other side quite a lot too. And it's not good for the country," Rice told CBS' Norah O'Donnell in an interview that aired on CBS' "The Early Show" on Wednesday.
It's make it or break it time and whining around about the other side high tech lynching you or about some leftist conspiracy just isn't going to cut it.

Update: Now the Herman Cain camp is saying that Rick Perry is behind the surfacing of the sexual harassment allegations. So much for the liberal high tech lynching idea..

Update 2: John Dickerson at CBS News has written a great article, Why Cain's story isn't like Clarence Thomas'

Hill's story appeared in the paper, catching Thomas off guard. Cain was given 10 days to respond to questions about the matter before it was made public. Politico wasn't fishing--tell us anything wrong you've ever done--it was asking questions about a specific legal matter.

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