We know for certain only a couple things regarding the Herman Cain controversy: the National Restaurant Association reached agreements during the 1990’s to give payouts to at least two women who were accusing Cain of sexual harassment, and in recent days, another woman has accused him of long-ago sexual harassment.
There are many things we do NOT know regarding Cain and these accusations, including: whether he actually ever sexually harassed anyone (he has not been criminally convicted or even charged with anything, nor has he been found guilty in a civil lawsuit, nor are there any witnesses to corroborate any of these women’s claims, that we know of, or any hard evidence of his alleged misbehavior). We do not know whether he ever acted inappropriately toward an employee (again, there are no tapes, no hard evidence of any kind, no corroborating witness accounts – at least not that have come to light). We do not know who provided the Politico with what appear to have been confidential files belonging to the National Restaurant Association, or what might be the motives of whoever did so for doing that (we can only speculate, unless some enterprising reporter wants to find out who furnished Politico with those files).
All we know is that, over the course of an extremely successful 40+ year career in business, several women made accusations that Herman Cain sexually harassed them. We also know that these accusations only came to public light recently during the course of Cain’s run for president, unearthed by anonymous sources who released an institution’s confidential files to the media.
It is certainly possible that Cain acted inappropriately toward some women subordinates. It is also certainly possible that Cain has been falsely accused, or that he may earlier in his career have engaged in “gray area” flirtations or behaviors that may have been inappropriate but that have been blown out of proportion.
Any of these possibilities – or some combination – could be the truth.
I can certainly imagine a powerful man acting inappropriately; I can equally imagine that opportunistic people may have accused him or exaggerated claims in order to get money. Based on my life experience, I think either set of scenarios is entirely possible. Best not to jump to conclusions until we learn more.
I think it would be worth examining whether the National Restaurant Association settled other, similar claims around that time (whether their policy was to settle things rather than let them drag on when someone presented a claim that could be troublesome and expensive). I have heard that, at least in the state of Pennsylvania where I grew up, individuals accused of sexual harassment are responsible for paying lawyers’ fees for both parties even when such claims are eventually dismissed (I have to fact-check that, however). My source in Pennsylvania says that this policy exists in order to encourage victims, usually women, to come forward and to decrease any stigma or fear over doing so. If that is in fact true, the NRA would have had a major incentive to pay these women a modest settlement in order to be done with the matter in short order. Also, they might indeed have been required to pay their legal fees even if the accusations were, as Cain claims, determined to be baseless.
More to come.