It’s time for Herman Cain to find out who his friends are.
As Cain faces allegations of improper behavior towards female subordinates during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, he’s not yet receiving a full-fledged defense from ostensible Republican allies – either the party’s establishment or the base. In a hurriedly arranged interview with Fox News, Cain denied the charges, saying he has "never sexually harassed anyone. These are false accusations."
Penny Nance, the head of the conservative women’s group Concerned Women for America, told National Journal that she didn't believe the allegations. But she added that Cain should “leave the race” if the allegations turn out to be true. Former National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said Cain has handled the allegations “terribly at this point” and that his camp’s initial response could “hasten the downfall” of the campaign.
Several prominent conservatives are defending Cain. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter told Fox News on Sunday night that “liberals are terrified of Herman Cain” because he’s a “strong, conservative black man.” And American Spectator contributing editor Jeffrey Lord said the story was a “high-tech lynching of an uppity, conservative black man.”
Here’s a sampling of the Republican reaction so far:
Karl Rove, on Fox News (before Cain personally addressed the charges): "Well, he's not denying, but he ain't responding, and that's not the best place to be. If these allegations are not true, say they aren't true, and put it behind you. If not, better get everything out sooner rather than later because in a situation like this, if there is something there, that something is going to come out.”
Rove, on whether the campaign's initial statement was sufficient: "No... you simply can't say 'go talk to the National Restaurant Association' and refuse to answer the question [of] were there any monetary settlements involved in these things. You can't simply say 'go talk to someone else'; you need to say 'yes' or 'no' and if no, say 'no' immediately, say 'absolutely not', and get on with it. But if you're sitting there saying 'go talk to somebody else', it's not going to help you."
Tom Davis, on Cain's handling of the story, to MSNBC: "Terribly at this point. They raise more questions than they're answering at this point. This campaign I don't think is suited for the long term anyway. They hadn't built the infrastructure, but I think this may hasten the downfall.”
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, to National Journal: “I think it’s important that I establish that I have known Herman Cain for a number of years and have only had good experiences with him and have only known him to be deferential and respectful. So I find it a little hard to believe. But, with all that, I think it is incumbent upon him to answer the allegations directly. If they’re true, then I think that he would need to leave the race.”
Ed Rogers, longtime GOP adviser, on washingtonpost.com: “[W]e may be about to find out how deep his support really is. With the news of allegations of sexual harassment from more then [sic] a decade ago, Cain begins the traditional political dance of charges and denials of past misdeeds. Some voters may see this as typical politics and may rally around Cain. It may give him Republican street cred to get shot at by the usual suspects in the media.”
Ann Coulter, on Fox News: “I’m spitting mad about this attack on Herman Cain.… Liberals are terrified of Herman Cain. He is a strong, conservative black man. Look at the way they go after Allen West and Michael Steele, and they aren't even running against Obama. They are terrified of strong, conservative, black men.”
Donald Trump, on Fox News: "Well, I think it's very unfair. You know, you become a leading candidate and you become a person of prominence, and somebody sues you and they say all sorts of things. Perhaps he settled just because he didn't want to go through the legal fees and spend a lot of money. ... So they settle it on the basis that it's a lot cheaper and quicker and no publicity, no nothing. And they settle it. And then it ends up blowing up in his face. I think it's very, very unfair."
Trump, on how Cain should respond: "He probably should have come forward and say, 'I was falsely accused of something; I settled in order to save legal fees'. That's probably what he should do. It was settled. Unfortunately, professionals are going to understand this, but nonprofessionals, meaning the public, watching this, I think it looks very bad. And will probably have an impact."
Curt Levey, Committee for Justice executive director: “There is no suggestion in the Politico article that Cain's alleged behavior was either severe or pervasive, so at least for now, the suggestion of sexual harassment is unsupported.… Corporate America is very risk averse when it comes to negative publicity, and in-house settlements often occur even when the evidence of harassment falls far short of the threshold needed to be taken seriously by a court.”
American Spectator: “We can't have a conservative black man in the Oval Office because he was once accused by anonymous women of 'inappropriate behavior'? But we can give a pass and an attaboy to a liberal white man who was actually in the Oval Office when accused of infinitely worse behavior by said multiples of women? Including, say again, rape? And now everybody just has a big ole laugh about it all at said ex-president's 65th birthday when Lady Gaga shakes her booty at Bill and everybody roars? Yes indeed. That does appear to be the game.”