The Cain campaign gave a tutorial over the weekend on how not to respond to a negative story.
Politico broke a story which claimed that two women receive financial settlements from the National Restaurant Association (which Herman Cain led in the 1990s) after lodging sexual harassment complaints against the man who is now front-runner among Republican presidential candidates.
Cain was confronted by a reporter outside CBS News Sunday (where he had just appeared on Face the Nation) and was asked if he had ever sexually harassed anyone. Taking a page from another Herman, Pee Wee Herman, and the “I know you are but what am I?” school of public affairs, Cain responded only by asking the reporter if HE had ever been accused of harassment.
Things went (further) downhill after that. A Cain spokesman, J.D. Gordon, called in to Geraldo Rivera’s show on Fox News Sunday night. With the host awkwardly holding a cell phone up to his lapel mic to catch the spokesman’s spin, Gordon kept trying to denigrate the story by calling it “thinly sourced” and saying his boss “deserved better.” Maybe so, but is it true?
Geraldo tried time-and-again to get an answer to the question of whether there was a cash settlement to no avail. At one point he told Gordon “What you are doing now is a recipe for disaster, mate.” You can see the video below.
Clearly Gordon’s spin wasn’t working. Today the candidate himself came out and said on several different programs that he had been falsely accused back in the 90’s and that his organization may have made some cash settlements to make the issue go away but that he had never sexually harassed anyone. He said the charges were “totally baseless” and “totally false.”
We’re betting Cain’s spokesman would have liked to have been armed with those words when he went on “Geraldo at Large” the night before.
You have to wonder why it took the campaign almost 24 hours to come up with a plausible response. It is not as if they were blindsided by the allegation. Politico says they had been asking Cain’s people about the charges for several days before publication.
There are some questions — and some stories which you can finesse your way around. But this was not one of them. The only way to deal with these kinds of allegations are to get the facts out instantly. Cain & company are thin on experience — and the last day has delivered a painful lesson.