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November 10, 2011 1:05 PM Cain campaign’s not-so-subtle threats

By Steve Benen

I can’t say with any confidence whether the sexual-harassment allegations surrounding Herman Cain are true. The accusations seem credible, and the fact that the Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly contradicted himself and changed his story doesn’t inspire confidence, but the claims have not yet been fully proven.

With that in mind, it stands to reason that Cain and his campaign would defend itself and urge voters to believe the candidate’s version of events. What Team Cain is doing, however, goes well beyond a standard defense, and enters the realm of intimidation and retaliatory tactics.

L. Lin Wood, the lawyer hired by the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain to fend off sexual harassment accusations, has warned that any other women who might be considering coming forward with similar allegations “should think twice.”

On Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Karen Kraushaar identified herself as one of two women who had received monetary settlements relating to harassment allegations against Mr. Cain while working for the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s, Ms. Kraushaar faced questions about a workplace complaint she filed at a subsequent job, at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Hours later, Rush Limbaugh seized on that report to argue that Ms. Kraushaar has “a pattern of whining.”

And when another accuser, Sharon Bialek — whose last name Mr. Limbaugh has pronounced as “buy-a-lick” — appeared Wednesday on MSNBC, she faced fresh inquiries about her troubled financial history, which had been documented and publicized by Mr. Cain’s campaign under the heading, “Who Is Sharon Bialek?”

Think twice”? This isn’t exactly subtle — Cain’s camp is trying to intimidate would-be accusers from coming forward. What if they have legitimate claims of misconduct against Cain? That apparently doesn’t matter; the GOP campaign is prepared to destroy accusers anyway.

And in case this wasn’t quite aggressive enough, now there’s also CainTruth.com.

Herman Cain has made clear his position on the accusers who say he sexually harassed them — or worse — while CEO of the National Restaurant Associations: they’re liars.

Now the campaign has an entire website dedicated to driving that message home, CainTruth.Com. The hastily-put-together blog appears to be primarily dedicated to spreading damaging stories about the women who have come forward….

Is it any wonder victims of sexual harassment are often reluctant to come forward?

Putting that aside, I can think of other presidential candidates who’ve been accused of wrongdoing, but when it comes to public campaigns to destroy accusers, Cain appears to be breaking new ground.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • David in NY on November 10, 2011 1:11 PM:

    I think that that "think twice" might be grounds for attorney discipline, in New York anyway. Maybe he should "think twice."

  • DAY on November 10, 2011 1:12 PM:

    "Cain appears to be breaking new ground"

    Indeed he has! His speaking fees will skyrocket, and future book sales are guaranteed to make the best seller lists.

  • brent on November 10, 2011 1:14 PM:

    The "threats" seem like pretty weak tea to me. Bialek has financial problems. Kraushaar filed another lawsuit once. This is what women coming forward are supposed to be afraid of coming out. This sort of half-assed ineffective smear campaign is supposed to get women trembling in fear to speak their mind. Even by republican standards, that's exceptionally pathetic.

  • Ron Byers on November 10, 2011 1:15 PM:

    Mourning Joe compared Cain's intimiation campaign to Bill Clinton's campaign to silence his acquisors but I don't think James Carvelle was nearly as overt as "buy-a-lick" Limbaugh.

    Explain to me how he continues to have a show.

  • June on November 10, 2011 1:15 PM:

    Being a member of the UTLO club, (shout-out to Steve Harvey!) I've never had ANY respect for Herman Cain. But my god, I didn't really have any idea of what a pig this guy is. P I G.

  • Aaron Baker on November 10, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Yes, I agree that we can't yet say with complete assurance that he's guilty--but he sure is acting guilty.

  • Aaron Baker on November 10, 2011 1:19 PM:

    L. Lin Wood sounds pretty obnoxious; but I doubt that "should think twice" would be sanctionable. Lawyers are generally free to make threats of legal action; and we have no evidence that he meant something else.

  • thebewilderness on November 10, 2011 1:23 PM:

    That really is one of the most aggravating Catch 22s in our culture.
    A good citizen reports crimes when they witness or experience them. However, a pattern of reporting crimes will diminish a citizens credibility.

    Most women, by the time they reach retirement, have lost count of how many times they have been sexually harassed on and off the job.
    The media is providing a pretty clear picture of what happens when women report crimes against their person.

  • dalloway on November 10, 2011 1:33 PM:

    Let's try a thought experiment. What if a Democratic president had been accused of sexually harrassing a number of women? Would Republicans have no comment, as Mitt Romney did last night? Or would they be talking impeachment? Oh, wait...

  • g on November 10, 2011 1:37 PM:

    Just curious, are there records of any Cain public statements on sexual harrassment in the workplace during the times of the Bill Clinton impeachment? Cain worked for the NRA from 1996 to 1999, leaving before the end of his term. The Clinton impeachment hearings were in the second half of 1998. Wonder if he ever went on record aout these issues, during the time he is alleged to have committed harassment.

  • Danp on November 10, 2011 1:38 PM:

    At first Cain didn't rememeber any accusations. Then he wanted names - not to refresh his memory, but so he had a name and face to blame. I wonder if he realizes or even cares the extent that he is tainting an already-tarnished Republican field. "I guess the best we can come up with is the sexually abusive black guy, who calls other blacks brainwashed, and promises not to sign any bills more than three pages. At least he still pisses off liberals."

  • Anonymous on November 10, 2011 1:39 PM:

    "but the claims have not yet been fully proven."

    That's not actually true. The National Restaurant Association found the allegations credible enough that they agreed to settle with the women rather than go to court and force the women to prove their claims to juries.

  • M B on November 10, 2011 1:47 PM:

    It strikes me that this response is further illustrative of a pattern of behavior of bullying women (or just bullying in general).

  • Betsy on November 10, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Let's be clear: The only reason this can happen in the Republican Party is because the higher ranks are OVERWHELMINGLY MALE. If they had a few women hanging around HQ, they would understand that this kind of thing really pisses women off.

    The BOYS CLUB factor at the top is the same reason that Sarah Palin could be chosen for the VP slot. A bunch of men were making the decision, and they all said to each other, "She looks GREAT! Let's do it."

    If they gave any thought to what women would think, it was probably "God, she looks fantastic! I bet the women will love her."

    The BOYS CLUB factor is the same reason that Newt Gingrich is taken at all seriously as a candidate by the GOP. There aren't enough women at the top to make the GOP men understand JUST HOW MUCH WOMEN DESPISE HIM.

  • Aaron Baker on November 10, 2011 2:00 PM:

    JUST HOW MUCH WOMEN DESPISE [NEWT GINGRICH].

    I never thought about that; but it makes perfect sense. My own male insensitivity, alas.

  • SteveT on November 10, 2011 2:02 PM:

    Betsy said:

    "The only reason this can happen in the Republican Party is because the higher ranks are OVERWHELMINGLY MALE. If they had a few women hanging around HQ, they would understand that this kind of thing really pisses women off.

    I'm a liberal, but I try to be intellectually honest. I remember several women, including leaders of women's rights groups, defending Bill Clinton when allegations were made that he had a sexual relationship with a young White House intern.

    The situations aren't exactly equivalent, but they do show that party loyalty seems to be the number one priority at BOTH party headquarters.

  • T2 on November 10, 2011 2:10 PM:

    firstly, NRA did pay out $80,000 in hush money. Let's track that back to the guy who wrote the checks and find out what the story was. Shouldn't be too hard to do.
    Then, consider this. IF these allegations are true, I'd imagine that there were others. AND if there are others, maybe they are thinking this: " if that asshole gets the GOP nomination and is in a position to become president, I'm gonna spill the beans".
    I bet the National Republican Big Wigs are thinking the same thing. So basically, Herman better be telling the truth.

  • Marko on November 10, 2011 2:51 PM:

    Herman Cain smash hits:

    You want a job, right?

    There's thousands of women I didn't harass.

    Before you accuse me, you better think twice.

    Just ask Princess Nancy.

  • berttheclock on November 10, 2011 3:32 PM:

    Beware of L Lin Wood. I believe he was the one Kobe Bryant hired after allegations of rape reached the prosecutors office in Colorado. Wood swept in and took complete control and forced the prosecutor into the shadows. Non-disclosed amounts of money made the charges go away.

  • g on November 10, 2011 3:41 PM:

    Berttheclock, your warning is useful, but this isn't going to happen in a court of law.

  • Texas Aggie on November 10, 2011 4:15 PM:

    For influencing a thoughtful public, this action is wrong in two ways. The first is that going after the messenger instead of the message suggests that the message is true or that at the least, you have no defense. The other is that being as vicious a bully as this STRONGLY suggests that you are indeed the type that would commit a serious sexual offense.

  • TCinLA on November 10, 2011 5:13 PM:

    Step'n Fetchit, er, I mean Herb, er, I mean Herman Cain is out to prove he's the one who owns the billfold Jules Winnfield told Pumpkin belonged to him, the one that said "Baaaad Niii......er" on it.

  • st john on November 10, 2011 5:44 PM:

    In at least one instance, the most publicized one, Sharon Bialek, the accuser," is identified as a registered Republican. So, attacking her credibility is the easiest route to take. What credible woman would be a registered Republican? It pretty much contradicts the "Democrat" conspiracy theory. And, BTW, whenever I see a Republican use the noun, Democrat, as an adjective instead of Democratic, I think it means the same as referring to an African-American or a black person as the N word. It is a perjorative meant to demean the subject. Anybody else have this same feeling?

  • ComradeAnon on November 10, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Me thinks he doth protest too much.

  • Kiweagle on November 10, 2011 6:40 PM:

    @SteveT on November 10, 2011 2:02 PM:
    A particularly important difference between Cain and Clinton, as horrendous and stupid as the latter was, is the simple fact that his situation was consensual.

    What struck me as more interesting is the comparison between the way the GOP deals with it's accusers versus the Dems. Remember when conservatives verbally attacked that pre-teen who came out in support of the healthcare bill?

  • DK on November 10, 2011 6:47 PM:

    I've heard the comparisons to Clinton-Lewinski, but I think that's off the mark. It's really more like Clinton and Paula Jones.

    Has anyone given any thought to the possibility that one of these women might bring a lawsuit in the future, if heaven-forbid Cain was actually elected? The SCOTUS has already ruled that a sitting President can still be called to testify in a civil suit. Food for thought.

  • Kiweagle on November 10, 2011 7:40 PM:

    @DK on November 10, 2011 6:47 PM:
    Great point about the possibility of future litigation, but I'd like to remind you that, like the Lewinski scandal and unlike these allegations against Cain, the Jones affair was consensual.

  • kanopsis on November 10, 2011 7:50 PM:

    What Team Cain is doing, however, goes well beyond a standard defense, and enters the realm of intimidation and retaliatory tactics.

    He didn't name it Godfather's Pizza for nothing...

  • DK on November 10, 2011 9:00 PM:

    @Kiweagle on November 10, 2011 7:40 PM:

    It's possible I could be mistaken, but I have a fairly distinct memory that Paula Jones claimed that it was not consensual. I seem to recall tearful testimony about a hotel room, Bill dropping his pants, forcing her to touch him, . . .

  • DK on November 10, 2011 9:36 PM:

    I just checked and indeed Paula Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment (non-consensual). She claimed he exposed himself to her, but I was wrong that there was any claim of touching. The case was eventually settled out of court for $850,000, but not before Clinton lied under oath precipitating his impeachment.

  • Kiweagle on November 10, 2011 11:57 PM:

    @DK on November 10, 2011 9:36 PM:
    I stand corrected, thanks for setting the record straight as it turns out to be a far better comparison to the Cain situation even though the case did initially go to trial and was dismissed.

    Thanks to you, I did a little extra research and realized that I'd been thinking of Gennifer Flowers, who had an extended extra-marital affair with him.

  • Mark Combs on November 11, 2011 1:58 AM:

    So he's warning others not to come forward. Makes you wonder how many others are being warned...

  • DK on November 11, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Kiweagle:

    I had totally forgotten about Gennifer Flowers.

  • DW on November 11, 2011 10:06 PM:

    I find Cain to be a nasty, smarmy, brutal man. I haven't heard one thing from him that was kind or intelligent. I guess that makes him a favorite of the Republi-tards.

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