Just in time for the Monday morning news cycle, Politico reported that in the 1990s two women accused Herman Cain of harassment in the workplace while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association. According to their sources, the cases were settled out of court and gag orders were part of the settlements.
The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
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.
POLITICO has confirmed the identities of the two female restaurant association employees who complained about Cain but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.
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. (Read More)
As Doug Mataconis pointed out, it’s not all that unusual for claims of this nature to be settled out of court.
To be fair to Cain, allegations of this sort can be made and settlements can be reached on the advice on corporate counsel even if the question of fault is ambiguous.
It’s convenient that the sources are anonymous. The Politico piece also went on to quote other NRA board members who don’t recall any complaints about Cain’s behavior.
The Cain campaign issued the following response, via The Washington Examiner.
Inside the Beltway media attacks Cain
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.
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.
Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before – a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics.
Mr. Cain — and all Americans, deserve better.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more about this in the coming days. The media will be all over this since Cain is a conservative. (Unlike their lack of curiosity over the many allegations made against Bill Clinton.)
I’ll just add that in my day job I’m constantly receiving invitations from our payroll company to seminars on avoiding employee lawsuits. I’m not saying that there aren’t some nasty bosses out there, I’ve had a few. But there are also a good number of disgruntled employees who wouldn’t think twice about fabricating stories of harassment for a quick payday. Unfortunately, in these he-said/she-said sort of cases nobody but the parties involved really know the truth.
Via memeorandum, where this became the top story while I was writing this post.
Update: While I was writing this I had football on TV, so I wasn’t watching the news coverage of the story. Maggie was watching, and Juan Williams had an interesting take on the matter.
Juan Williams is on with Geraldo this minute saying this is undoubtedly the work of the GOP establishment who wants Herman Cain out of the picture. You know, I wouldn’t doubt it, but then I would as easily point the finger at David Axelrod and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (RTWT)
Yeah, it’s hard to tell them apart some days. I also wouldn’t put it past the Perry campaign. They seem to go for the jugular.
Update 2: I switched over to Fox News, and Geraldo was talking to some man (sorry, I don’t know who it was) who said Romney has the most to gain from this. Ann Coulter noted that it’s much easier for corporations to settle these sorts of claims, even when unfounded, than to go to court. Then Geraldo concluded by showing footage of the Casey Anthony verdict being read. Even more odd, JD Gordon from the Cain campaign called in, but all we could hear was Geraldo’s end of the conversation.
Update 3: Drudge just linked to a months old story with the quote “I’m ready for a high-tech lynching.” Also, another panel member on Geraldo’s show pointed out that if a lawsuit was settled with a gag order, Cain is also not allowed to say anything. Is this why only professional politicians ever reach the highest office anymore?
Update 4: The Other McCain points out that all of the exculpatory material was stuck at the end of the Politico piece, and adds:
We know nothing about the accusers and the specifics of the accusations from a dozen years ago are reported rather vaguely by Politico: “episodes that left the women upset and offended” and “physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”
All in all, it’s a long run for a short slide. Unless and until we have some specifics — including names, dates and places — my instinct is to agree with Gordon that this is “part of a smear campaign.”
Well, we don’t have a single name, date or place, all we have are unnamed sources.
Update 5: The more I think about it, the more I think Perry’s campaign could be behind this. Mitt’s been holding steady with his 20 to 25%. I get the feeling his campaign is fairly comfortable. Perry, on the other hand, has been in desperation mode. Perry entered the race as the front runner – he was the anti-Mitt – until Cain’s debate performances left Perry in the dust. The Democrats probably would have held onto this until the general election. We’ll probably never know for sure, but that’s my gut reaction.
Update 6: Da TechGuy linked – thanks!
Update 7: Here’s the video of Ann Coulter talking about this: “Nothing liberals fear more than a black conservative.”
Update 6: American Swagger links and the writer thinks Obama’s trying to distract from his unlawful activities.