Sexual harassment claims are notoriously easy to make, and it is impossible to judge the merits of these two cases on the public evidence so far. However, the Cain campaign’s initial response was a mistake because it merely charged political bias without a firm denial. “Fearing the message of Herman Cain who is shaking up the political landscape in Washington, inside the Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain,” the campaign said in a statement. “Dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”
That won’t do for a presidential candidate. Voters want to know whether such a charge is true or false. By late this morning Mr. Cain had acknowledged as much by telling Fox News that he had been falsely accused and that the sexual harassment charges were “totally baseless, totally false.” He said the National Restaurant Association may have settled the cases but that he hadn’t been aware of the settlements.
Mr. Cain’s candidacy can survive these charges if he is telling the truth. He may even get an initial sympathy backlash from Republicans who have learned to be skeptical of such accusations against conservatives. (See Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court nomination of.) What he won’t survive is a revelation that contradicts his denial.