Sexual Harassment: Why I Hate Talking about Herman Cain

5 years ago

I was hoping I would not have to write about Herman Cain. He’s a goofball and a distraction and it really irritates me to have to waste even one second thinking about him.

First off, I don’t think he’s a serious presidential candidate; he’s only interested in promoting himself as a brand. Hence, the endless book tours in lieu of the actual work of retail politics and his baffling positions on everything from abortion to taxes. Then there’s his mind-boggling disdain for the unemployed.

You see why this is a hard topic for me.

I’m also still annoyed over that TV ad. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where his chief of staff looks like a used car salesman and is smoking a cigarette as he stares straight into the camera talking about what an upstanding guy the GOP candidate is. (Great messaging, Herman!) But that’s not even the freaky part.

The camera then pans to Cain in profile. He looks intense. Several seconds pass. Nothing happens. More seconds pass, with the camera lingering on Cain’s face. Then gradually Cain’s mouth starts to move. What’s he doing? I kept thinking. Is he going to speak? This goes on for another, oh, ten minutes, until finally Cain’s mouth morphs into a full-on smile. I still don’t understand what the ad is about, but it’s one of the creepiest political ads I’ve ever seen. And I’m still mad at myself for watching it when I could have been doing something far more important like watching "Dancing with the Stars."

So while I’d much rather talk about Kim Kardashian’s divorce, and whether she and Kris Humphries should return the gifts, it would be remiss of me not to talk about the sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain.

According to Politico, Cain sexually harassed two female employees when he was head of the National Restaurant Association, I don’t know if the allegations are true, but after denying them and insisting he knew nothing about any financial settlements with the women, Cain suddenly began revising his story. Yes, he did know about one of the settlements. But in his mind it was an “agreement,” so that’s why he misspoke. In any case, the charges were “baseless.” He was the victim of a "witch hunt." But then again, Cain told reporters, he did observe to one of the women that she was the same height as his wife. Maybe she misinterpreted that as a sexual remark?

That makes about as much sense as anything else Cain has said.

In any case, the women aren’t talking because the settlements they made with the restaurant association prohibit them from doing so. Although one of the women said yesterday through her lawyer that she wants to tell her story, so who knows? But for the moment we're left with the ever-shifting, unsatisfactory, convoluted statements of Herman Cain. Did he harass them? Or didn’t he? And if he did, does it matter in terms of his fitness to be president?

I think it does matter. A lot. But what really bothers me about the controversy is not so much what Cain is alleged to have done, as gross as it is, and whether that will torpedo his campaign. If it does, I’ll be the first to throw a pizza party for everyone. But I don’t think the charges are a big enough deal for Cain supporters that it will. Since the allegations, Cain has reported a surge in online fundraising. So what does that tell you? People will believe what they want to believe.

What really bothers me is Cain's utter disdain for the truth, the slippery way he’s dealt with the incident by alternately stonewalling and being aggressive and evasive. Short of his insipid policy ideas, his crass self-marketing, his ignorance about foreign affairs, that says as much about Cain’s character and his fitness to be president as anything.

If that's all I have to write about Herman Cain this year I'll be happy.

Credit Image: © Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/

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