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Opinion: I'll Defend Cain Against Harassment Claims (But Still Won't Vote for Him)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 - 01:20 PM

Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain delivers remarks at The National Press Club October 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Getty)

I'm not supporting Herman Cain for president. I've been dancing around this fact because it is hard for me to admit. I don't have a candidate yet but I will be happy with either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. 

I worked on Herman Cain's U.S. Senate primary campaign in 2004 in Georgia and he remains my all-time favorite candidate.  His loss in that race was the most heartbreaking political defeat of my career. I still think he's amazing, smart, genuine, and capable, I just don't think he's ready to be president. I would like to see him bone up his foreign policy credentials. I don't like his 999 plan because I don't trust the government to keep the federal income tax at the agreed-upon 9%.  Most of all, I don't think someone who has never held elected office can beat Obama and that is priority #1 this election.

I note all this now to be clear that my defense of Herman Cain, against charges of sexual harassment while he was at the National Restaurant Association, is not political in nature.  He isn't "my guy" for president who I will defend to the death because I have a political allegiance. I was a big fan of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, but the moment the story broke that he hadn't been heard from in days, and was "hiking the Appalachian trail", it was clear to me that he was either on drugs or with a woman. I had written about him as a possible future presidential candidate and yet it didn't even cross my mind that he was innocently on a walkabout somewhere.  I didn't defend Sanford for one second even when the story still seemed guilt-free.

I feel very differently about Herman Cain.

Cain is the kind of guy who is exactly the same behind the scenes as he is when he's "on".  He's honest and direct.  There's no nonsense with him.  His charm is not a flirtatious charm.  He is not lecherous.  He is the same towards men as he is towards women. While he has a dazzling personality, he doesn't use it to inflate his own ego.  He knows his strengths, of course, but he doesn't seem like the kind of person to try to get away with things.  He doesn't do things because he can.  Many of his ex-staff from his U.S. Senate campaign have gone on the record saying this story does not at all represent the Herman we know.

I could be wrong, that's always a possibility, but in general I know people and I know Herman Cain.  As Matt K. Lewis points out in the Daily Caller, Cain has made it a central point of his campaign that his background is clean as a whistle.  You don't do that when you know you have skeletons.  Lewis also quotes "Joe Fassler, a former NRA Chairman of the board of directors, and the man who recruited Cain for the job" as comparing the job to that of the mayor of NYC.

Lewis adds: "Why might this be relevant? It’s certainly not dispositive — but the magnitude of Cain’s old job implies he managed a large number of people — and that he probably ruffled more than a few feathers. These facts probably increase the odds that a few former employees might be disgruntled."  From knowing Cain this seems like the most likely explanation.

In our 24-hour news-cycle world it's hard not to have a story like this mar a person's reputation.  The feeling for many of us, myself included, is that if there is smoke there is fire.  I think we're wrong this time and hope we get to learn the truth.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.

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Comments [8]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@Denise - Don't let Ms. Bialek's accusation sway you until you learn more about her, her motives and the truth content of her statements. Unlike the other accusers - who pressed the matter under the aegis of an HR department with (presumably) guidelines to follow, Bialek has no documentation. She could be telling the truth - why would anyone lie about something so embarassing? She might be lying. There are plenty of reasons to do that.

Workplace harassment can take three forms:
1. Quid pro quo - Do this for that
2. Annoying pursuit - Date me, Date me, date me, date me, date me!
and
3. Hostile Environment - kind of a catch all but usu. behavior that makes it uncomfortable to go to work.

Cain's behavior as reported has fallen into Type 2 or Type 3 but the latest accusation is Type 1 and beyond the pale. That is one reason why I doubt we are hearing the whole story from Ms. B.

My experience with corporate sexual harassment is personal. I won't judge Herman until many, many more facts are presented.

Nov. 08 2011 08:00 AM
Denise from Queens

I could see having that opinion until today. How do you feel after hearing about the alleged assault (what she described is far from harassment) on Ms. Bialek? It seems that there are a few too many accusations at this point for there to be nothing going on.

Nov. 07 2011 07:13 PM
Harrison Bergeron from NYC

After having Bill Clinton as president, how can anyone talk with a straight face about sexual harassment?

Nov. 02 2011 11:53 PM

Karol from NYC;

Thank you so much for your reply.

In your defence, I must admit I can't think of a liberal in the same position as Mr. Cain at this time either. ;-))

Keep at it. You're interesting to read whenever you slip the leash, duck around the [metaphorical] corner and avoid the usual talking points and buzz phrases so beloved of [ultimately] boring political commentators.

Nov. 02 2011 11:47 AM
Karol from NYC

That's the thing, Torus, if there was someone on the left who I truly believed and felt was innocent, I'd defend them too. This isn't right or left, this is my thinking that Cain is innocent.

Nov. 02 2011 11:11 AM

Dear Ms. Markowicz;

It is important, given the over-hyped, pressure-cooker nature of political reportage and commentary in the US, to suspend judgment whilst the facts are uncovered.

While I personally have little regard for politicians, I find the willingness of some people to automatically suspect the worst in any situation involving them to be deserving of censure.

When it is also informed by political considerations, it is doubly so.

A well-written piece.

It lacks only the additional honor which would accrue to it were the subject a politician of the left. Considering the current political climate and your stage of ideological development, that might well be asking far too much.

Nov. 02 2011 08:16 AM
Karol from NYC

Thanks, Brian! I think that's the nicest comment I've gotten on here. :-)

Nov. 01 2011 03:22 PM
Brian from Oklahoma

Love the article and the honesty you display in your writing. I wish there were more writers like you who spoke from the heart and not just for gains and fame. thanks

Nov. 01 2011 01:59 PM

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