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November 30, 2011

For Herman Cain, Alleged Affair Could Prove More Damaging than Harassment Claims

Cain campaign says questions about ‘private sexual life’ are out of bounds.

GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain is “reassessing” his candidacy in light of an allegation that he had a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Many social conservatives are reassessing their support for the Cain campaign since Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White told a Fox News affiliate that she was involved in a “very inappropriate situation, relationship” with Cain.

Cain campaign suggested that such an extramarital affair would be private and not a legitimate topic for public scrutiny. The allegation of an extended affair comes on the heels of claims of sexual harassment during Cain's time as president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain has denied both the affair with White and the harassment charges.


When Cain faced harassment charges, many conservatives came to the candidate's defense. The charges were simply that—allegations. Cain was considered innocent until proven guilty. Newt Gingrich, one of Cain's rivals for the Republican nomination, told NBC on November 11, “Up to now [Cain] seems to have satisfied most people that the [harassment] allegations aren't proven, and that having people who hold press conferences isn't the same as a conviction. So I think people are giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

According to a poll of likely Iowa Republican voters, born-again Christians and cable news watchers became more supportive of Cain after the harassment allegations.

A poll began a week before the November 7 press conference by women claiming harassment allegations against Cain and ran for another week after. While the average voter grew slightly less supportive of Cain after the press conference, those who watched cable news saw Cain as more intelligent, more trustworthy, and a stronger leader after the allegations than they did before the press conference.

“The effect of the scandal on perceptions of Cain depends on where people are getting their information,” said Dave Peterson, interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy. "Those who tune in to the major networks react as one might expect: they view him more negatively. Cable news watchers, in contrast, report more positive assessments, suggesting that they are rallying behind Cain.”

Among likely Republican caucus goers, there was a drop in the support for Cain among Catholics and Mainline Protestants (those who did not say they are “born again”). Among evangelical, born-again voters, however, there was an increase in support for Cain after the harassment claims, according to data Peterson provided to Christianity Today.

White had records of 61 phone calls by Cain's personal cell phone to her. Fox News 5 texted the phone, and Cain called them back. He said he knew White but was only trying to help her financially.

While Cain denied the allegation of an affair, Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, sent FOX 5 in Atlanta a statement about the claims:

...This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace – this is not an accusation of an assault - which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.

Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door...

The statement did not deny the allegation. It argued that one's private life has no bearing on a candidate's public integrity—an argument that did not sit well with many conservatives who have now turned on Cain.

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Wood's statement “a disaster” and “an argument of desperation.”

“Voters know that a candidate’s sexual life is an essential dimension of character. So is the candidate’s fidelity or lack of fidelity in marriage,” Mohler said. “Character does not end at the bedroom door. Any effort to make this claim will be recognized by the public for what it is. We live in a morally confused age, but there is little confusion about the fact that sexual behavior and personal character are inseparable. The question of character is among the most crucial issues of a political campaign.”

Iowa talk-radio host Steve Deace told Politico that the statement by Cain's lawyer was the “kill-shot” for Cain's campaign. “For an ordained Baptist minister to assert through his attorney that what happens in his private sex life doesn’t matter is preposterous,” Deace said.

In an interview on the Scott Hennen radio show, Michele Bachmann said her campaign considered Cain's run for the nomination to be all but over.

"When it came out yesterday, everyone said, 'This is it. He's done.'” Bachmann said. “And so people just don't see that there is an ability for him to be able to come back after that." Bachmann told Hennen that she would likely benefit from Cain's departure and from other candidates falling in the polls.

Most of Cain’s opponents, including frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, have remained silent.


What does it say about us that Cain's first accusation of assault and harassment did not hurt is campaign as much as the accusation of a consensual relationship? I find it curious...

Why are these women NOW coming forward with these claims? Before Mr. Cain decided to run, I do not recall hearing anything about him. It seems as though they saved up everything waiting for the right time. Did they complain about being harassed by him when it happened? The woman in the affair - when she began "said" affair, did she rush to tell to tell the world that she was sleeping with someone's husband? Or was that a "secret." Did she not know at that time that she was doing something wrong? Can we take these females seriously?

@Cindy, given the amount of flack women receive for making allegations of harassment or affairs, I can see that staying out of the public eye makes sense. Your response reminds me of the woman caught in adultery and put before Jesus. Have you ever wondered where the guy was? In this case, why do you focus on the woman cheating with a married man? Two people share in the transgression. With these issues hovering around Cain, maybe the question should be, "Can we take Mr. Cain seriously?" At the least, shouldn't we ask more questions of someone who self-identifies as a baptist minister/preacher? The reputation of Christ is being besmirched and you worry about these women? Seems like an odd priority.

Agree with DC. I'm looking at Mr. Cain's own statements and trying to wrap my head around how any married man keeps secret the fact that he has been financially supporting another woman (for years) from his wife and partner of 43 years, if his motives are truly altruistic and Christian? As a Baptist minister, surely he would be mindful of how inappropriate this is on so many levels? Is he that naive? I will give Mr. Cain the benefit of the doubt if he says there was no sexual relationship, but even without that, this is emotional adultery/behavior that violates marital trust and shows poor judgement on Mr. Cain's part.

If this woman's allegations are false all Cain needs to do is sue the woman and prove her wrong in a court of law. If he did have an adulterous affair, why would he run for the presidency knowing these things would come out? He had to know he would be risking his marriage, not to mention he would suffer public humiliation, scorn, and the loss of credibility. At least Newt G. admitted his derelict behavior and said he was sorry for being a big scum bag.

I agree totally with Olga; why would he run knowing that such actions would come out. My first impression here is that the women was paid big money to tell this lie and if she is a liar, she should spend hard time in prison for ruining Mr. Cain's reputation. I will be looking for the "proof" of this, and if there is no proof that comes out; shame on the O'bama camp, big huge shame on him.

Shame on the Obama camp? What a reckless and unfounded accusation! A) There is no evidence they had anything to do with it. B) They could have no possible motive to try to harm Herman Cain, as his presence in the race was clearly damaging to the Republican brand and destabilizing to the cause of Republican unity. Please think before you accuse.

REALLY Kate, what planet do you live on? Cain was THE man who would have wiped out any chances for Obama getting re-elected, who are you trying to kid??????

This is the difference between harassment and adultery (and I'm not assuming that either are true). A lot of innocent things can be mistaken for harassment depending on the mindset of the person. Complimenting a person's new haircut, grabbing someone by the shoulders so they don't get mowed down by someone walking fast the other direction, using a vague term of endearment. It kind of depends on the mindset of the person on the receiving end. This is all very speculative and I wouldn't consider any of this harassment and it would not make me uncomfortable to be around that person/persons. However, I am homely and would never dream that someone would hit on me. Someone else might take a polite gesture as harassment. Adultery is a different story altogether. That is why this incident created a reaction that the other reports did not. However, helping a person out financially does not mean adultery. Periodically I ask one of my bosses or a friend at church to spot me a couple hundred. They do and I pay them back. I am concerned, though, if Cain's wife didn't know this woman. That is, at best, keeping a secret from a spouse. What confuses me, is that people are concerned about Cain's private life but not about Gingrich's. Sure, he has apologized (at least to the public - don't know about his wives and children), and asked for forgiveness, but he is still an adulterer at least two times over and has, I dare say, left a lot of carnage in his path.

@Mary, Kate & Nancy, I believe Cain suspects someone from the Romney camp of leaking this info - not a Democrat.

Regarding White's motives concerning why she stepped forward, an article about it is found here -- http://powerwall.msnbc.msn.com/politics/ginger-white-on-herman-cains-exit-his-arroganceand-her-sex-claims-1708194.story

@Mary, Kate + Nancy, as incredulous as you are about White's motives, what about Cain? You assume that no one with skeletons in their closet would risk exposure by running for elected office. History tells us you're wrong -- John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Mark Foley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a host of others. What makes you think Cain would be different?

If you ignore history and facts (the harassment cases that were settled, wife not knowing about money going to a friend), then what is the basis for your assertion?

mmm... I wonder! What is it like for "conservatives", tea-publicans, re-publicans et al. To commit Adultery and Fornication.

mmm... I wonder... what is it that, self-proclaimed conservatives conserve or pre-serve?

I just wonder! Given the fascination they have for it and their imaginations as I've seen in them, for years on.

It is only me?