Politico assumes role as attack dog, not watch dog, in Cain case

It’s not surprising that as I was putting the finishing touches on my post regarding reckless journalism surrounding the Tea Party, a wildly sensationalized story by Politico exploded.

The “story” was about  sexual harassment allegations against Republican hopeful Herman Cain more than 12 years ago.

In this case, the word “story” should be emphasized, since this is hardly a “report.”

There are ambiguous statements about “gestures” that weren’t sexually suggested but still allegedly made the women uncomfortable (I’m sorry what?).

Politico talks about comments that may have been of a personal nature, but don’t make any specific statements regarding details of any of these alleged encounters.

There were settlements in the case, apparently just a couple months severance pay according to Cain, because there was never any corroborating proof of the allegations.

So let’s see: unnamed sources, no proof, no investigation ever finding Cain guilty of any wrong doing and Politico even quoted a number of former female peers of Cain who said he was nothing be respectful and that he had unanimous support in “the room,” meaning the National Restaurant Association.

Look, sexual harassment cannot be minimized because it’s degrading and hurtful, not to mention illegal.

On the other hand, there’s been absolutely no proof offered by anyone at any time about a case that happened more than a decade ago.

Of course, Politico bent over backwards patting itself on the back for bringing these allegations to light and mentioning that Cain has sidestepped them.

We don’t know that there isn’t proof. There might be. However, Politico doesn’t offer any nor does it even say if there is any, although they claim to have sources who know what happened.

Despite their star witnesses, they haven’t reported what actually happened, nor have they shared what proof, if any, was offered in the hearing or investigation against Cain.

Rumor and innuendo does not a story make…unless it’s about a Republican apparently.

Even Fox News thinks this is reckless journalism.

All we know is there was a settlement and allegations. At this point, honestly, we don’t know if there if any proof. The National Restaurant Association has not released the documents from the investigation, nor should it have to.

In fairness to Politico, it is relevant to mention Cain was accused of sexual harassment, and it is likewise relevant that a settlement was reached.

But any reporter with his or her salt is going to take the next logical step: namely, determine specifically what was accused and what proof there is to back up that claim.

And yes, that absolutely matters. People make false allegations or trumped allegations for financial gain every single day. We normally call them “politicians.”

If these allegations were found to be baseless but the NRA decided to settle anyway, that’s relevant (You’d expect that these women would have gotten more than just “a few months pay” if there was substantive evidence).

But Politico didn’t report any financial numbers which leads me to believe they don’t have them. They didn’t report any specifics regarding this case which leads me to believe they also don’t have that.

What they have is a couple anonymous sources (doubtfully the women themselves) and vague, even ambiguous statements about what happened.

The allegations are real and that can’t be understated, but that doesn’t mean they have any merit at all. It’s disengenuous to impugne the integrity of Cain for sidestepping these allegations without knowing if the allegations themselves have any merit.

If you asked me if I think the moon is made of green cheese and I say “I’m not going to answer that question,” I can’t be lampooned for not answering.

If Cain had, from the start, dismissed these statements as patently false, it stands to reason he doesn’t want to go digging through the past now, when he’s leading the polls in the Republican presidential race.

I’m not going to make excuses for him because I don’t know the facts, but apparently either did Politico, yet they still ran the story.

I don’t know he didn’t do it, but I don’t know that he did it either. Murky accusations and a settlement are hardly a smoking gun.

Blaming the the missteps of Politico, or any media source, on our society’s need for instant information is just a lazy argument.

There’s no reason a news organization cannot take the time to get a story 100% right before running it. In fact, the widespread access to media improves media accountability because as quickly as someone breaks a story, someone else can break a story proving the original story was false.

Politico ran with a story that might have some substance, but it didn’t know if it did or not when it ran the story. That’s their own decision to not follow ethical protocol.

Proof of these allegations doesn’t validate the reckless and self-congratulating approach Politico took on this story.

It does, however, validate my point about the kind liberal condescension that permeates much of the mainstream political media.

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One thought on “Politico assumes role as attack dog, not watch dog, in Cain case

  1. […] media, like the politicians they cover, have to be accountable to public opinion. I have pointed out a number of times the bias in reporting regarding Herman Cain and the Tea Party in […]

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