Herman Cain and the ‘Liberal Media’
Today Herman Cain’s defense presents evidence that the 2012 presidential canidate is falsely accused of the sexual aligations. New York Times’ columnist ANDREW ROSENTHAL discusses, with more than a little disgust, the ways politicians manipulate and accuse the media to suit their own ends.
I’ve always been impressed, well alarmed really, at how quickly the right wing jumps on an issue almost in unison. This week, it was the news that Herman Cain, one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, was sued on claims of sexual harassment when he was running the National Restaurant Association.
I barely had time to read the articles, and try to figure out whether there was any solid information about what exactly happened, when folks like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh had long made up their minds. They were already denouncing what they imagined to be an organized attack by the “liberal media.” I didn’t see any signs of a left-wing conspiracy, vast or otherwise, but it’s true I missed the morning conference call with Barbra Streisand (apologies to Rachel Maddow, who used to tell that joke on her Air American radio program).
Ms. Coulter and Mr. Limbaugh, and others on the right, also claimed the hubbub about the lawsuit was racist. Mr. Limbaugh said the left was smearing Mr. Cain with “the ugliest racial stereotypes” and Ms. Coulter said liberals “are terrified of strong, conservative, black men.”
That’s ludicrous, unless you think the simple reporting of a legal action against an African-American man is an act of racism. This line is especially hard to take since it was the Republicans who perfected the art of injecting racial fears into modern-day politics (remember Willie Horton in 1988?) and have conducted an unrelenting personal attack on President Obama that sometimes has not-so-subtle racial overtones.
By the way, Mr. Cain has been injecting “ugly racial stereotypes” in his campaign for months. Back in August, long before anyone ever heard of the sexual harassment lawsuits, he ran a peculiar campaign ad called “He Carried Yellow Flowers,” in which a snaggletoothed black drunk notes that a tough-looking white cowboy is, as the title has it, carrying yellow flowers. The cowboy responds: “Why is it always about color” with you liberals.
The cowboy then goes on to make the usual crack about Mr. Obama’s experience as a “community organizer.” Somehow I doubt he means the community of 300 million Americans. That sort of thing is not a dog whistle attack. It’s audible to anyone. Oh, and, there was Mr. Cain’s suggestion in a Times Magazine interview last June that Mr. Obama is not a “real black man.”
Just imagine the uproar if a Democratic candidate had been accused of sexual harassment. Would conservative talking heads have immediately accepted the candidate’s assertions that the allegations were utterly without merit? Hardly. Certainly Fox News would not have invited the Democrat to a warm-and-fuzzy interview with an anchor who called him by his first name, as Jenna Lee did with “Herman.”
The lawsuits are a legitimate news story. And Mr. Cain’s responses have been extremely puzzling. First, he refused to comment. Then he flatly denied that he had ever sexually harassed anyone, and claimed he was unaware of financial settlements between the National Restaurant Association and any accusers. (Remember that he was CEO of the association at the time, and that Mr. Cain has based much of his campaign on being a take-charge kind of businessman). Then he suddenly remembered one of the settlements in some detail.
Mr. Cain’s handling of the sexual harassment story is of a piece with the rest of his incoherent campaign. He claimed an economist advised him on his 9-9-9 plan. Turned out it was a bank employee with a degree in accounting. He’s bashed Islam and mosques, taken it back, then bashed them again. He can’t be bothered to learn the names of foreign leaders who help the United States in the war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Limbaugh says that “what is known as the mainstream media” is after Mr. Cain because it can’t abide the idea of a competent black conservative candidate. I guess Mr. Limbaugh would include me in that group. It’s true that I think Mr. Cain is “unfit to lead” the United States, as Mr. Limbaugh put it. But that’s not because he is African American, or because he’s a right-wing politician. It’s because he hasn’t shown that he’s fit to lead. And I’m not singling him out. At this point, I don’t think any of the GOP contenders truly have shown that, either.