The Politico website has to stop hiding behind anonymous sources and bring out exact details of the allegations against presidential candidate Herman Cain if its story alleging sexual harassment is to be believed, conservative media critic Brent Bozell tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
On the face of it, he said, the charges against Cain, now running neck and neck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, do not seem very serious.
Bozell agreed with radio host Rush Limbaugh that Cain is being attacked as much because of his race as because of his conservative positions.
"The one thing the left cannot bear is an uppity conservative black man leaving the liberal plantation," Bozell said. "They cannot stand that. They look on him with contempt just as to this day they look on [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas with contempt and still do, although he probably one of the wisest jurists we've ever had.
"There's never going to be respect for Clarence Thomas and there's never going to be respect for Herman Cain because they left the plantation," Bozell said.
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On Monday night, Cain vigorously defended his conduct even as he conceded to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that at least one woman accused him of improper conduct during a Chicago business trip for the National Restaurant Association, which Cain headed at the time.
The woman, he said, worked for the restaurant association’s political action committee. "When we were at the restaurant show, I was constantly talking with different staff members about different issues. If I had a private conversation with her, I don't recall it," he said. He also said he was unaware that she had made a sexual harassment claim against him.
As for the second woman originally included in the Politico story, Cain told Van Susteren that she was a writer in the restaurant association’s communications department, although he said he cannot recall her name.
He said the only accusation he can remember was that one day the woman was in his office and he pointed out that she was about the same size as his wife, Gloria.
“I brought my hand up to my chin saying, 'My wife comes up to my chin,'" he said, putting his palm against his chin. "And that was put in there as something that made her uncomfortable, something that was in the sexual harassment charge."
But he told Van Susteren he could not remember whether the woman complained about that behavior at the time. "I can't recall any comment that she made, positive or negative," he said, according to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, who is also a Fox News contributor.
Cain, who insists he was “falsely accused” of harassment, said the money the women got was similar to what would have been a termination settlement. “Maybe three months' salary, I don't remember. It might have been two months.” He said they had originally asked for a far higher figure. “I do remember my general counsel saying we didn't pay all of the money they demanded."
Politico reported on Sunday that the women, who were both employed by the association were each given five-figure sums if they quit the association and agreed not to talk about their claims.
Bozell suggested that the story is being overblown.
“That’s not a very high settlement,” said Bozell. “That to me doesn’t scream big problem. That, to me, says go-away problem.
“We all know the real world, and we know that in the real world, very often corporate America will settle and give something just to have the problem go away.”
Bozell, president of the Media Research Council, which he set up to track liberal bias, said he is yet to be convinced that there is a real story in the Cain allegations.
“Sexual harassment is the broadest of broad accusations. It could be something that is quite serious. It could be something that’s next to meaningless, you just don’t know," he said.
“Is it enough to warrant blanket national news coverage that would derail a presidential candidacy? If they can’t give you the details of it, I’m highly, highly suspicious.”
The four reporters whose byline appeared on the Politico story were doing the rounds of the cable news networks on Monday, but adding little to the story as it appeared. One of them, Jonathan Martin, told MSNBC that one of the accusations involved Cain, who has been married for 43 years, inviting a woman up to his hotel room.
But Cain changed his stance on Monday night from claiming he knew nothing about any settlements to admitting he discussed the amount with the restaurant association’s general counsel.
Cain said he does not know where Politico got the story from, but Bozell said ”there is no question it was leaked by somebody wanting to hurt Herman Cain.”
“That is going to mean somebody in the political camp,” he said. “No telling which party.”
But he said it is too early to tell whether it will hurt his candidacy in the long run. “It can go one of three directions. It could blow over. It could undo his candidacy or it could backfire on his accusers and propel him forward. Time is going to tell.
“In the coming days what you are going to see is either hard evidence of serious wrongdoing, in which case it will be a major media story and deservedly so, or you are going to see a lot of coverage over a continuing nothingness because there is nothing there yet, or it’s just going to go away.
“My guess is that the media are going to try to keep this thing alive as long as they can and if there isn’t strong evidence this is going to backfire against them.”
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