For our next Readers’ Review: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. The whimsical classic turns 150 this year. Help us mark the occasion by joining our discussion.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain faced an onslaught of questions yesterday related to sexual harassment claims made in the late 1990’s. The National Restaurant Association allegedly paid two female employees to settle harassment complaints against Mr. Cain who was, at the time, head of the trade group. He first denied the report and then said he’d been falsely accused: Join us to talk about what the allegations may mean for Herman Cain’s presidential prospects and current perspectives on the issue of sexual harassment.
- Ruth Marcus columnist and editorial writer, The Washington Post.
- Erica Salmon Bryne Erica Salmon Byrne senior vice president, compliance advisory services and assistant general counsel, Corpedia Inc, an ethics, compliance and risk assessment consulting company.
- Emma Coleman Jordan professor of law at Georgetown University.
- John Harris editor in chief, politico.com; author of "The Survivor" and co-author of "The Way to Win."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Herman Cain, a top contender in the GOP presidential race, faces a barrage of questions over allegations of sexual harassment. At first, he flatly denied the report and then said he'd been falsely accused.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about the issues and their implications for his presidential bid, Emma Coleman Jordan of Georgetown University Law School, John Harris of politico.com, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, and joining us from a studio at KUVW in Denver, Colo., Erica Salmon Byrne of Corpedia, Inc. That's an ethics, compliance and risk assessment consulting company. Of course, you are welcome to be part of the program. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
PROF. EMMA COLEMAN JORDANGood morning.
MR. JOHN HARRISGood morning, Diane.
MS. ERICA SALMON BYRNEGood morning.
MS. RUTH MARCUSGood morning.
REHMJohn Harris, if I could start with you, politico.com broke the story of these allegations. He first denied them. Now, he says he's falsely accused. What's the latest?
HARRISThe latest is he effectively acknowledged the thrust of our story. And, Diane, I could say that that's a story that we've been working on for two -- almost three weeks, involving a number of reporters who have been working at these from a number of different angles and a number of editors who were holding this up to the light for multiple angles as you can imagine. It's a difficult, sensitive story.
HARRISWhat we published -- Herman Cain, as you said in your intro, first, effectively denied the story or no commented or -- first declined comment, then denied, then, throughout the course of yesterday, acknowledged the two main thrusts of our story: one, that there had been sexual harassment allegations against him when he was at the National Restaurant Association, two, that these had been settled.
HARRISLots of questions still out there unanswered. Precisely, what was the behavior? What was the actual process by which these were settled? What was the disposition of this? And is there a broader context to this?
REHMJohn, how did these allegations first come to light at Politico?
HARRISLike most stories of this kind, through a tip, through somebody who had heard about it. I will say without getting into too much detail about our source -- and the original tip was not somebody who was in position to corroborate what the source had -- what this person had heard. So I consider it merely more of a tipster than a source, but that tip was interesting enough that we did go about reporting and actual -- find actual sources who did indeed have understanding -- firsthand understanding of what was -- of what happened at the NRA in the 1990s.
REHMCan you confirm or refute the idea that the tip came from one of Herman Cain's political challengers?
HARRISDiane, I cannot.
REHMYou cannot do either? You cannot confirm or refute?
HARRISNo. I've elected not to do that. I think that's -- the details of our reporting, we're trying to share as many of them as we can. But what we share is what we publish, and I don't think I can go into a lot of the plumbing of the story. But I should say -- I can add I don't think that particular fact is material to our understanding of the set of facts in public debate. What we published was reported, carefully reported, carefully edited, so the question of motive, to me, seems quite secondary to the question of what exactly happened.
REHMJohn Harris, he's editor in chief of politico.com. Turning to you, Ruth Marcus, do you think that motive remains secondary?
MARCUSIn terms of how Politico got the story, I actually completely agree with my friend, John Harris. I think, first of all, Politico deserves an enormous amount of credit, especially in the competitive 24/7 news environment that we live in, for taking what seems from the outside, from reading the story and hearing accounts of it, to have been extreme care in handling a very sensitive story. The Cain campaign had 10 days, which is an eternity these days in journalism, to formulate a response to Politico.
MARCUSAnd I think all sources have some motive or another. And the question is whether the nugget that they bring to you is, A, relevance and, B, developed to a point that you can get it in the -- your newspaper or online, and that's what Politico did.
REHMAnd you wrote yesterday that the response to these allegations is a textbook example of how not to handle.
MARCUSAnd the amazing thing was that it got worse and worse and worse as the day went on yesterday. Because, if you remember, Herman Cain started the day by saying, I didn't do it, and not only did I not do anything, but I never -- I don't know anything about a settlement. I went to the National Press Club to see him yesterday and was -- you know, one of the weirder moments in my journalism career has been listening to a presidential candidate sing on request. That was kind of fun, as were the 999 cupcakes.
MARCUSBut he said at the Press Club that he didn't know of any settlement, as he has said on Fox News. Well, by the time we were -- he was on the NewsHour and then on Greta Van Susteren, he was at details about what might have happened with these women and, oh, yes, there was a settlement. So it was just a very bizarre and unprofessional handling of a difficult situation.
REHMAnd, Emma Coleman Jordan, there have been immediate comparisons to allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ann Coulter called this another white liberal lynching. How do you see it?
JORDANI think that the initial response by Clarence Thomas was over the top in an exaggeration of our history with racial violence and appropriation of this dark history for his personal defense, and Coulter's use of it similarly is inappropriate, inapplicable. Let me just say why I think it's inapplicable. First of all, with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, we have two human beings who could present themselves to the public and the public could judge eventually, up into the process she did present herself to the committee and the people could judge.
JORDANHere, we have a one-sided story, and the key to the other side of the story, we hear from Herman Cain. We hear from his representatives. But the other side of the story, the women, we've not seen, we've not heard, and the question is why. We understand from the reporting that there is an agreement that prevents them from speaking. Herman Cain is seeking the office of the presidency of the United States. We ask for tax returns, medical reports. He has the keys to unlock these women to be judged in the public eye by waving whatever agreement he signed them to let them speak.
REHMEmma Coleman Jordan, she represented Prof. Anita Hill in the long-ago clash between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill that ended up in worldwide publicity and in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Turning to you, Erica Salmon Byrne, how do you think our understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment has changed in the last 20 years?
BYRNEThank you, Diane. We've seen a really remarkable change, I would say, over the course of last 20 years. In our context, helping companies design programs that keep their employees from getting the organizations into situations like the one that the NRA found itself in, we've seen a tremendous rise in awareness of appropriate workplace behavior. And we've seen tremendous rise in awareness of the way to handle these kind of allegations.
BYRNEOne of the things that I've found most interesting about the political reporting was the interviews with members of the advisory board who, at least on the record, indicated they were completely unaware of these allegations. Now, that simply wouldn't happen nowadays in an organization that has a best in class investigation protocol that has a matrix that raises these kinds of allegations involving a senior executive to the board level.
BYRNEWe saw that just earlier this year with the situation that Mark Hurd got himself into at HP. The board was incredibly involved because the allegations involved the CEO. And so I found that piece of the political reporting to be particularly interesting because that is so contrary to the way we see things being handled these days.
REHMAnd you give to advice to companies. What do you tell them about sexual harassment?
BYRNEWe tell them that they really need to think about two primary things from an organizational perspective. One is having the right written standards in place, policies, procedures, a code of conduct that talks about the way we treat each other in the workplace, the way we behave with each other in the workplace, making sure that everybody feels comfortable in the workplace. One of the things we've seen over the course in the last several years is the remarkable rise in males reporting harassment by female superiors.
BYRNEAnd so this isn't simply a male to female thing any longer. It's -- we're seeing same-sex harassment claims, things along those lines. And so standards and then training is really the next critical thing.
REHMErica Byrne, assistant general counsel and director of Corpedia, Inc. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about sexual harassment and specifically the accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain that have been published by politico.com. Here with me in the studio, John Harris. He is editor-in-chief of politico.com, author of "The Survivor" and co-author of "The Way to Win." On that very point, Ruth Marcus, what should Herman Cain have said as soon as he heard the charges, the question from Politico?
MARCUSHe should have figured out what the situation was. He should have asked Politico for time to do that. Then he should have figured out -- really, the answer to your question depends on the facts of how bad the underlying conduct was. But he should have gotten out his story on his own terms, in his own words, as fully and cleanly as possible, so you don't have two things.
MARCUSSo you don't have a story that's changing over the course of a day, not to mention a week, and so you're not inciting people, who have a different version of the story, to come out and tell their own story because when he says, these were false accusations and they were found to be without merit, I don't -- as a journalist, I can tell you the fact that these women signed non-disclosure agreements is not going to end up binding them. Who is going to sue them for violating their non-disclosure agreement when they have been denied and contradicted in that way?
JORDANYes. I think this is a key to the difference in this case. This was settled through an internal complaints procedure. And as the facts are unfolding, it appears it was a shortened, reduced, limited circle of people involved. Yesterday, we heard from Mr. Cain that the human resources director of the Restaurant Association was involved, and through reporting political reports, no, not the human resources director who would be the appropriate person to be involved in this kind of settlement.
REHMThen who was, John?
HARRISI don't know, Diane, the truth of what happened. All I know is that we have conflicting testimony. We have Herman Cain's comments that the human resources director at the National Restaurant Association was involved. She had previously told us before Herman Cain's comments that she knew nothing about this. So there's an obvious contradiction there. I can't square that circle. I don't know the facts. I do know that I don't think an internal procedure is probably too grandiose a description of it.
HARRISMy understanding of this -- that this was handled in an improvisational way, not through procedure. Or, in any event, if there was a procedure, if there was some kind of internal adjudication of this, our extensive reporting with board members, staff members and others with firsthand awareness didn't find that. So that's a question mark in my mind.
REHMDo you believe that the Cain group and those who know and support him had any inkling that this was coming to the fore and, therefore, could have been prepared for the question that came from the reporter at politico.com?
HARRISYou're referring to the Cain campaign, or his old organization at the National Restaurant?
REHMCain campaign. Sorry for being confusing.
HARRISThe Cain campaign. No. I did not get a sense that they had.
REHMSo the question...
HARRISExcept in the vaguest terms, there had been discussion of this. Previously, Herman Cain, had apparently told some campaign staff member, you know, there's this thing out there that's been settled and no problem. They didn't have details and didn't have any of the context, but they were aware of the possibility of something out there. According to our reporting, I can tell you, from my vantage point, it did not seem that they had any kind of specific plan or strategy for handling those inquiries when they did, in fact, come.
REHMYou know, some people in the public might feel that the politico.com reporter who posed the question was there to do a gotcha. And I find myself wondering how -- you know, if I didn't know something was coming, how I might have reacted. Why didn't you...
HARRISCan I take a response to that, Diane?
HARRISOur inquiry to them about -- was made through the campaign apparatus on Oct. 20.
REHMSo it was made privately?
HARRISThat's correct, yeah.
HARRISJust the same way any sort of reporter inquiry is. We reached out to the campaign director of communications on Oct. 20.
HARRISBut there had been repeated interactions between Oct. 20 and Oct. 30, which was the date when Herman Cain appeared on "Face the Nation" at CBS. It was my judgment as editor, we can't publish this, even though they haven't been responsive to us in any kind of detailed way. We still should not publish this until we can talk to Cain directly, not through his proxies. And so it was my judgment to send Jonathan Martin out there to talk to Herman Cain. I didn't consider it a gotcha, that these matters had been put before him privately for 10 days.
MARCUSI totally agree. I think John and Politico would've been negligent not to take the opportunity to get to the candidate directly. And I want to say one more thing because Emma is such a temperate law professor type and I'm an over-the-top columnist-type. I just find myself, once again, actually, enraged by the notion that race had anything to do with this. If anything, I suspect that John and Politico were ultra-careful because of the emanations and echoes of the Clarence Thomas hearings.
MARCUSBut there is simply absolutely no indication. We don't know if these women are African-American or white or Asian or anything else. There is no indication of any racial animus or echo or involvement or anything else. The only people who have brought up race are Herman Cain's defenders. And I would like to say, shame on them.
JORDANI agree with that. You know, I think that we are in a season, the presidential campaign season, where we've seen the story before. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with sexual imposition, sexual indiscretion. You remember John Edwards and the stories that began to unfold about an affair and about a videographer and the denials, and then, you know, it just gradually came out.
REHMAnd he finally admitted.
JORDANFinally, he is in court now about the allegations that he used campaign funds. The point I want to make is that these allegations are allegations that came forth in the mid-'90s. Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill had their stories told. In 1991, this would have been an environment of very heightened -- in the mid-'90s, a very heightened sensitivity to male behavior in the workplace, and that includes off-premises trips to hotels and social things afterwards.
JORDANSo I'm shocked, really, that we're getting a report that there was a settlement with a non-disclosure agreement that prevented -- these women were dismissed from their jobs. They lost their jobs in a settlement. And we are getting information...
HARRISI should say, Emma, that last detail is something that I cannot speak to...
HARRIS...on the basis of our report. I do not have the detailed chronology of their...
JORDANWhen they left...
HARRIS...well, of their exit and...
HARRIS...what the terms of that exit were. I know that there were departures. I know that there were settlements with non-disclosure agreements around those settlements. And those settlements came after they leveled complaints of sexual harassment, but I cannot say that they lost their jobs because of that. I just don't know that.
JORDANWell, the causation part of it, we may not have, but it is a fair inference to say that these women leveled complaints. They no longer work for the employer against whom the complaint...
HARRISI think it's fair to say that they found their work situation and continued employment there to be not a tenable option.
JORDANWe don't have their story, and that is the problem you have, I have, Ruth has, everyone has.
REHMLet me ask John Harris directly. Has politico.com identified these women yet?
HARRISYes, we have. As we said in the article, that we do know their identities and...
HARRIS...have elected not to publish them for privacy consideration.
REHMHave you been in touch with them? Has Politico been directly in touch with them?
HARRISDiane, as you can appreciate in a situation like this, I'm better off fulfilling my responsibilities by sticking precisely to what we published, and we have not answered the question you just asked in our published report.
REHMThere are an awful lot of people out there who would say, how can you publish the name of the accused without identifying the accusers? I realize there's a nondisclosure statement. Ruth Marcus, politically, how does that play?
MARCUSWell, I think it's a very hard call, and I'm glad I wasn't -- not in John's shoes as an editor. The -- it brings in the sort of very amorphous and emotional nature of sexual harassment allegations. So John says that Politico elected not to publish their names out of respect for their privacy. It's a sort of no-brainer for most news organizations -- though we've had debates about it in the past -- not to publish the names, for example, of rape victims because it's a personal matter of having been raped.
MARCUSNow, is having been the subject or target of sexual harassment or alleged sexual harassment comparable to rape so that you're really interfering with somebody's privacy? I actually can see an argument not, but, on the other hand, I would feel very bad to drag a woman, who wanted to put all of this behind her, out into the public limelight, having done nothing to make this public and perhaps having asked me not to make her name public.
REHMErica Bryne, how do you advise companies, corporations to deal with this kind of situation when an employee has taken a buy-out perhaps or has left the company? How do you advise companies to deal?
BYRNEDiane, the thing that we usually see in these kinds of situations -- and let me just say, you know, we've heard from a lot of people talking about the Herman Cain situation. It's not uncommon to resolve these kinds of situations financially without necessarily reaching the merits of the allegations 100 percent. You know, in the legal jargon, we call it a nuisance settlement. You know, we're just going to pay some money to make this go away.
BYRNEI don't know whether that was the situation here. The fact that there's more than one woman, the fact that there are multiple allegations, you know, indicates that -- and, of course, the fact that we're not seeing any evidence that there was really any significant internal inquiry into what happened make me wonder whether that was actually the situation here. But that does happen relatively regularly. And what we always recommend is making sure that you really got your ducks in a row as far as the facts are concerned first, and that really doesn't seem to have happened here.
BYRNESo if you're going down the road of settling a situation like this, if you're looking at a nondisclosure agreement, if you're looking at the terms that go along with the separation of an employee from the organization, you always want to make sure that you understand what happened and that the relevant people within the organization have been alerted to what happened. And, again, that doesn't seem like it happened here.
REHMErica Bryne of Corpedia Inc., and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email, which says, "I cannot understand why the Cain campaign did not have the press release all typed up and ready with the facts and exculpatory information. If he wants to be president, he has to be able to anticipate problems. Certainly, he knew this could be a problem at some point." Ruth Marcus.
MARCUSBingo. It's all I have to say.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones. Let's go to Osage, Okla. Good morning, Rosemary. You're on the air.
ROSEMARYHello. First of all, hello to Emma Coleman Jordan. I know her, met her at a conference in Atlanta. But my question is to anyone who might have information. Is there anything on the public record about this? I guess there was no question of criminal charges. But did any court become involved? Is there any way to get information that isn't filtered through the Cain campaign?
HARRISWell, there's certainly a way to get information that's not filtered through the Cain campaign through reporting. In the course of our reporting, we did not find, and we did, of course, look for anything on the public record in some sort of legal setting as the caller describes.
REHMAll right. To Sugar Land, Texas. Fram, (sp?) you're on the air.
FRAMYeah. Hi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
FRAMSimple thing. Common sense in America is that you are innocent until proven guilty. But what I found -- what I find time and time again is that in some allegations, especially media, a person is guilty and can never be proven innocent. Now, look at the facts here. We don't know -- who are the accusers? We don't know what exactly happened. What I read in the story was there was a specific word. They (unintelligible) sexual conduct.
FRAMNow what does it mean? Did he say something, or he ever said anything? My question is how can the media present a story like this without having proper evidence?
HARRISHerman Cain is not in a court of law. He is a candidate for president, about whom every significant chapter in his career that shed lights -- sheds light on his capabilities to be president, on his character to be president, is relevant. I can appreciate the caller's point of view and understand his feelings. A couple of things to say about this: one, Herman Cain was aware with specificity -- and a special specificity in one of the cases -- what and who the accusations came from. This information is not unknown to him.
HARRISWe -- we're more detailed than the caller describes in describing the behavior, the alleged behavior that took place.
HARRISComments that were clearly in the -- as we understand them, sexually suggestive in nature that made the woman angry and uncomfortable and prompted them to level complaint. In the case of physical gestures, those were not based on a reporting to date, necessarily overtly sexual. But they were considered quite inappropriate from the woman's vantage point and from the vantage point of people who witnessed this in ways that they found odd, uncomfortable and inappropriate.
REHMJohn Harris, he is editor-in-chief of politico.com. We'll take just a short break here. When we come back, more of your questions, your telephone comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMI think we need to step back just a bit and get an idea of what really constitutes sexual harassment these days and perhaps for all time, but certainly these days. I'll start with you, Ruth Marcus, and then go to Erica.
MARCUSWell, I think that one of the things that the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings taught us, now 20 years ago, is that sexual harassment can be a very ambiguous contextual event. And so if John sitting next to me here were my editor and he said to me, in order for you to continue working here at Politico, Ruth, you need to sleep with me otherwise I'm going to fire you, nobody would disagree about whether that was sexual harassment.
MARCUSBut if we've known each other, as we have for more than 20 years, and we had a joking relationship, and he's joking with me in a way that he thinks is perfectly appropriate but might make me uncomfortable, there is going to be a gray area. And there's going to -- and it depends on what our relationship is. Are we co-workers? Is he my supervisor? How far over the line is he? Have I communicated to him that it's made me uncomfortable?
MARCUSAnd so that's what makes -- when Herman Cain came out and said, I never sexually harassed anybody, that was only or should only have been the beginning of the inquiry. What exactly did these women say? And were you adequately attentive to their obvious feelings of discomfort?
REHMAnd, Erica, from your perspective, what is it that you advise your corporate executives to be very, very conscious and aware of?
BYRNEYeah. Thank you, Diane. First off, Ruth is exactly right. I mean, there's a spectrum when we're talking about sexual harassment. At one end is the very obvious quid pro quo-type situation that she just alluded to. And then at the other end is gestures, jokes, comments that make individuals within the workplace feel uncomfortable. Now, you know, there are a couple of things that have come out in the political reporting around the Cain situation that are textbook, from my perspective.
BYRNEAnybody that's taken a sexual harassment training course over the course of the last 10 or 15 years would have seen these kinds of situations in that training course. And, of course, you know, now, these days, sexual harassment training is actually required in -- for any company that has employees in California, Connecticut or Maine. So there are state legislatures that are actually mandating training on this particular topic. But things like, for example, inviting somebody up to your hotel room, never a good idea.
BYRNEYou know, I could see a certain context in which you might say, hey, I need to go grab something. Come upstairs with me, and then let's go get some dinner, or something along those lines. But, really, at the end of the day, if you're on the road with colleagues...
REHMNot a good idea, yeah.
BYRNE...it's not a good idea to say, hey, come on back to my room. We'll have another drink. That's setting yourself up for a situation.
REHMHere's an email from Don, who says, "The Herman Cain and all similar situations represent the worst of both politics and journalism. If someone wants to get anything negative out in the public, they just throw the red meat to the media who do the dirty work for them under the guise of journalism." Emma, how do you see it?
JORDANI think that's an unfair characterization of the role the media plays. They are our ears. They are our curiosity in places of power. And if you put yourself forward as a presidential aspirant, you are entering a zone of intense scrutiny. And when they say presidential campaigns are different, what they mean is the searching level of inquiry, the sheer person power that is going to chase down every detail is what we in a democracy deserve and expect of the Fourth Estate. This is what they do for us.
REHMJohn Harris, how do you react to that comment?
HARRISI can understand it. Obviously, my view, and not just my view but how I define my professional responsibility, is more like what Emma says. I feel that we need to know everything that we can learn about presidential candidates. That doesn't mean just putting up a rumor, innuendo, allegation. It means doing journalism, which is reporting, trying to find out what happened and then putting that reporting through a careful editing process in which we're trying to measure accuracy, fairness, relevance.
REHMLet's go to Brunswick, Md. Good morning, Perry. You're on the air
PERRYGood morning, Diane. As usual, thanks for your very timely broadcast of this program. I've been listening to the discussion, and I have to back up what John says and also the lady who's familiar with sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity in general. I served as an EEO counselor for five years. It was a collateral duty with the Department of Labor in Chicago.
PERRYAnd my regional EEO officer used to give me the most -- she said she gave me the most complicated cases that she had. I guess she knew that I could handle them. From what Mr. Cain says about what he did, it doesn't compute with the outcome of the complaint. That's really my only input. And I've -- as a 60-plus white male, I've been in situations before with personal friends where I've overstepped or, I should say, gotten off-track. And if I hadn't listened, I wouldn't be friends with these people today. So it's just…
REHMThat's an interesting comment.
PERRYI've been on both sides of this, and I just -- it just doesn't seem to me that a five-figure settlement would be -- would have been even on the table in an EO -- in an EEO office if the behavior had been what Mr. Cain has publicly said it was.
REHMHas it been confirmed that it was a five-figure settlement, John Harris?
HARRISDiane, that's what we published in our story, and I would acknowledge five figures leaves a lot of room between $10,000 and $99,000. But that was what we were comfortable publishing.
REHMAll right. And here's another email from Peg. She says, "How come Bill Clinton and John Edwards got a pass in the media but Cain does not? John Edwards and his mistress were ignored by the media. With Bill Clinton, it was 'that it was his private life not his public life.' But with Mr. Cain, if this allegation is true, it's a moral issue. I don't mind the questioning of the candidates.
REHM"I expect every single candidate to go through the same grilling by the press until the mass media splash similar headlines for both Democrats and Republicans. I'm not going to trust anything the media says about any candidate." Emma.
JORDANI think that this is now a fair comparison. President Clinton was impeached. Let's remember that. John Edwards is now in the dock of a court around the very allegations that came forward toward the end of his campaign. So Herman Cain, on that spectrum between impeachment and legal accountability in a court for campaign spending on a mistress, is at the very light end of the spectrum. He is getting only inquiries.
BYRNEAnd, Diane, if...
REHMGo ahead, Erica.
BYRNESorry. I just -- I had to jump in there with one other distinguishing factor here because even if we go back to the time when President Clinton was running and there were allegations of mistresses and things along those lines, that was not a workplace situation. Those were relationships that he was allegedly having and Edwards was allegedly having with individuals who are outside of his employment.
BYRNEIn this situation, the allegations are that Herman Cain acted inappropriately towards people who were working with him or for him. And that is a very different set of allegations than merely having -- being unfaithful to one's spouse.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Tim in Raleigh, N.C. Good morning to you.
TIMHey, Diane, thanks for having me on your show.
TIMI love your show.
TIMI like to -- I have two comments. I'm going to come back on what the lady just said. She said Bill Clinton's was a personal affair, and it wasn't in the workplace like Herman Cain. But Bill Clinton still speaks to your character as president. And John was saying that, you know -- that when they become presidential candidates, that their character is in -- he's accountable to the public, so that would still be accountable.
TIMSo I think she's not accurate when she says that because Bill Clinton's character still should have been held accountable. Now, Herman Cain -- earlier she had spoken about Herman Cain had come out with a lie by denying it. Well, if he hadn't done it, then he wasn't lying. He was telling the truth. He just didn't add that he had been accused. And you had said earlier that, you know, it would be tough if you were blindsided by -- it would be very hard if the media has come up blindsided that when you weren't expecting it. How would you answer that?
TIMIf he was answering it truthfully -- not truthfully, then I think I don't really understand why the media is still spinning that he tried to come out lying about it when that's not really the case.
REHMOkay. John Harris.
HARRISTwo quick point: one, Ruth, as like me, a fellow veteran White House reporter during the Clinton years, I think we will recall that there was ample discussion, exposure of Bill Clinton's personal life.
REHM"60 Minutes," does anybody remember that?
HARRISSo I -- it's tattooed into my memory. We know more about Bill Clinton's personal life perhaps than any politician who's ever held the office of the presidency, even more than some people want to know, or many people want to know. So I don't accept that. Herman Cain was not blindsided by Politico. We put these allegations to him. In the first instance, we were ignored. Our inquiry was simply not responded to for about -- for four days. Then his staff came forward with answers.
HARRISThey revised those answers, and then, once again, they stopped answering further inquiries that came up based on our reporting. And we know that they discussed this with Herman Cain. It wasn't a matter of just...
REHMYou know that?
REHMYou know that.
HARRISThat -- so it wasn't just a matter of his staff didn't tell him, hey, I'm getting this kind of, you know, strange request for information. So he was not blindsided.
REHMThat's very interesting because we've gotten a tweet that says, "Any president has to deal with gotcha moments. A real importance daily how a candidate deals with them is telling." Ruth Marcus.
MARCUSWell, I think there are two levels of relevance to the Cain story. The first is the legitimate questions of character that, in a microscope, that really needs to be applied to any leading presidential candidate. And the second is what the campaign's bumbling -- and I think I'm being charitable here -- response tells us about his governing skills and his response in organizational skills. I think they're both relevant.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's a comment on Facebook from David, who says, "Herman Cain must really scare the far left. A whole show based on an allegation that can't be substantiated by victims who can't be identified. Harassment in the workplace is a serious subject of worthy discussion, but using it to cast a conservative candidate in a questionable light without any evidence is pretty low class. Really, Diane?" Go ahead, Emma.
JORDANThat's not a fair characterization, I think. Here we have someone who just held a press conference at the National Press Club about this matter. And he is in the frontrunner status in the Republican presidential campaign. That means that he, by inserting himself in the position, winning the trust of a large number of people in the Republican Party, has opened himself up to inquiry. And that's voluntary. Nobody forced him to do this.
JORDANNow, the question then is, is there a slant in the lamestream media? That's a very common reaction of conservatives. I think it's not fair to say that Democrats have taken a pass. We can remember that Democrats have been impeached, put in legal jeopardy because of sexual harassment complaints. So I think it's a fair thing to say that people in corporate life, the Hewlett-Packard executive, people in political life, people on the bench, people in -- men in a lot of different walks of life...
REHMAnd people in the media.
JORDAN...in the media, absolutely. So it's not liberal versus conservative. It's not the path or the type of job you have. It is your behavior.
REHMAll right. Where is this going, Ruth? How is this going to affect Herman Cain's candidacy for the presidency?
MARCUSWell, first of all, my instinct is that the factual development of the story is going to continue.
MARCUSIt's not going to stop here. Herman Cain said last night that he remembers one incident where he told the woman that she was the same height as his wife. That can't be the totality...
MARCUS...of the story. I suspect we'll hear more. And I think that, as we've seen in this Republican race, you go up like a rocket, and you can come down on the same trajectory. I suspect, in the end, Herman Cain's trajectory is -- was going to be going down anyway. And I think this may push it down maybe faster further.
REHMJohn Harris, how much further is politico.com taking this story?
HARRISWell, we'll take it where our reporting leads us, and I don't know the answer to that, Diane. I do know that we have a bunch of questions. Some of them have been raised by callers of the show or the discussion that we've had in this show, and we're trying to...
REHMGive me an example of the next question you want answered.
HARRISAre we able to get more precise details of what the woman alleged and what happened in a very sort of moment-by-moment way, a tick-tock is what journalists call it, once those complaints were leveled? What happened, and what led to the outcome of these cases being settled?
REHMJohn Harris, he is editor-in-chief of politico.com. Emma Coleman Jordan, she is professor of law at Georgetown University, Ruth Marcus, a columnist and editorial writer for The Washington Post. And Erica Salmon Byrne, she is assistant general counsel and director of Corpedia, Inc. Thank you all so much.
MARCUSThanks a lot, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
The number of children allergic to peanuts has skyrocketed. A new study suggests doctors have been giving the wrong advice about peanuts for years. A discussion of what the latest research says about preventing the sometimes life-threatening allergy.
Angela Lansbury on her life, career and current starring role in a revival of Noel Coward's comedy "Blithe Spirit."
High-level officials from the U.S. and Iran may be inching closer to an agreement over limits on Iran's nuclear program. Prospects for the deal and why some argue any agreement could be a security threat to the region and the U.S.