Conservative activists and talking heads, taking their cue from Herman Cain’s campaign, are dismissing the revelation in Politico that Cain was accused of sexual harassment by two employees when he was president of the National Restaurant Association. Politico gave Cain ten days to respond to queries to their detailed and thoroughly reported article, and he provided only inscrutable answers that verged on an admission:
In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints…. Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.
Rather than furnish a compelling argument for himself in the Politico story, since Cain didn’t have one to make, he waited for the piece to come out, then went after them with name-calling. As CNN reported, “A statement from Cain’s campaign vice president J.D. Gordon did not directly address the allegations and called the report a sign the media ‘have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain…. Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can.” (Coincidentally, Gordon himself sent a public letter in 2009 accusing a Miami Herald reporter of sexual harassment.)
Anyone with half a brain can see this for the dishonest misdirection it is. A report on an unflattering aspect of your personal history is not an “attack.” Nor does Politico count as one of Cain’s “critics.” Politico is a straight newspaper, not a journal of opinion. (Disclosure: I worked there for a year, so I speak from experience.) The article did not attack or criticize Cain. It did not say, “You should not vote for Herman Cain,” or “Herman Cain would make a bad president,” or even “Herman Cain may be a bad boss for women.” It made no value judgments of any kind. It simply reported the facts.
But most conservative media blowhards are echoing Cain’s talking points. As partisan hacks who prize their side’s victory over truth, they are completely incapable of recognizing that Politico has no anti-Cain agenda. As far as most conservatives are concerned, if a newspaper runs a story that reflects poorly on Cain, it might as well be a Democratic press release.
Rush Limbaugh lumped the Politico piece with another recent article by an objective newspaper that he didn’t like—the Washington Post’s discovery that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) routinely lied about his parents’ immigration from Cuba—as partisan smears of non-white Republicans. “This story appears to me to be a close relative of the hit job that the Washington Post is doing on Marco Rubio,” said Limbaugh on his radio program. “And it’s not news. This is not a news story. It is gutter partisan politics and it’s the politics of minority conservative personal destruction.”