Updated 2:28 pm ET
The story running in POLITICO today saying that the National Restaurant Association settled in the late 1990s with two women who alleged sexual harassment by Herman Cain, then president of the trade group, likely signals the end of the Cain campaign.
Not necessarily right away. But since the the charges of a payoff appear to be true, and given the strong family values sentiment among Republicans who form the base of Cain’s support, his candidacy would appear doomed.
There are several reasons why this is such a big deal.
1. The allegations are enormously serious. If true, and I believe they are, they mean that Herman Cain essentially paid hush money to two women who agreed after receiving at least $10,000 not to talk about what happened. Two women at an essentially conservative association. Not one.
2. If the sexual harassment allegations themselves are true, this is probably not the first and only time Cain has done this. Such behavior connotes a character flaw that is hard to suppress and that, particularly after a couple of cocktails, rears its head again and again. We’ll likely be hearing more instances of such behavior by Mr. Cain if he harassed these women.
3. The Cain campaign is not denying the charges of a payoff. It is instead trying to smear the people who reported it. From a Cain campaign statement:
Fearing the message of Herman Cain who is shaking up the political landscape in Washington, Inside the Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain, dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.
OKAY, THEN WHY NOT SAY IT DIDN’T HAPPEN? Geraldo put on his veteran reporter’s hat and tried to get a denial last night from Cain’s spokesman. He couldn’t.
Pathetic amateurism. The Cain people need to put all the facts on the table, right away. The facts will all come out anyway, and now they are going to look dishonest.
4. Don’t believe what you will hear from some of the conservative media. This is not a left-wing hit job. I know several people involved in the reporting and editing of this story, and that’s not how they operate.
The lead reporter on the story, Jonathan Martin, is famous around the White House press room for confronting Obama with tough, on-the-record questions when the president had dropped into the press area for an off the record schmooze. He never came back.
Martin is a reporter’s reporter who insatiably seeks news wherever he can find it.
Here’s Martin with Cain yesterday:
Politico took its time with the piece, sought and failed to receive direct responses from the Cain campaign over a period of ten days, got its information from multiple sources, and viewed documentation of the settlements. This is not a hatchet job.
I have no question that there is liberal bias in the media, and that the failure of the MSM to report the John Edwards affair was in part due to sympathy for his political positions.
But this is a serious story containing serious allegations suggesting a character flaw in the leading GOP candidate. Conservatives and Republican primary voters would be deeply mistaken to dismiss it, and do so at their own peril.
I thought Cain was treated unfairly with respect to his statements on abortion. Not this time.
Looking forward to hearing what you think.
H/T to Riehl World View where I saw the Geraldo video.
UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect my intent to say that the charge was likely correct that women were paid off by the National Restaurant Association to be quiet about what happened. I cannot know obviously whether the charges of sexual harassment itself are correct, though payments made to two women so that they would not talk about the case raise serious concerns and suspicions.