Cain being unfairly tried in court of public opinion

The 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 general.

As a professional member of the media, I try not to be overly critical of how the news is reported unless it’s particularly egregious, but this Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal is littered with ethical quagmires.

In a recent poll it conducted, Pew determined 43% of Americans believed the reporting on Herman Cain has been fair. Poynter Online, from whom I’ve taken that link, wrote  a little blurb explaining the poll.

The headline reads “Pew: Plurality believes Herman Cain sexual harassment coverage has been fair.”


Pew sees a “plurality” of support, where I see a “majority” (I assume Pew knows what that means) of disagreement.

A closer look at the numbers shows that 38% believe the coverage has been unfair, either too tough or too easy.

That means 18% of people either don’t know or refused. The semantics of it, however, don’t matter: if 43% of people agree with something, then by definition, 57% of people don’t agree.

Furthermore, while the margin of error isn’t provided, the normal margin is 3%, meaning this poll certainly falls within the margin.

What is truly disconcerting though, is that 38% of people think the media is screwing this up. This speaks to the lack of credibility that the media holds.

Cain called the media ‘downright dishonest’ in handling his case and 64% of adults apparently agree with him.

Partisanship and the need for constant analysis (as a byproduct of the need for 24-hour coverage) have created this lack of objectivity in the media as has the increased division among political narratives.

Here’s the other enormous problem with this Herman Cain scandal: it’s unjust.

No courts, no judges, no juries.

Herman Cain’s name is being dragged through the mud in the court of public opinion thanks to the sloppy reporting of journalists and the media hunger of a few.

The insufferable incomparable Gloria Allred is up at the podium quipping about Cain’s “stimulus package” and a woman is accusing Cain of some pretty serious things.

If you’re abused or harassed or assaulted, I’m really sorry. No one has the right to do that to you.

On the other hand, we have a system. It’s called the judicial process.

Sharon Bialek, the most recent accuser, was not a child abused by her priest or little league coach. She was an adult who decided to meet Herman Cain (allegedly) in a hotel room to ask for a job.

(Yeah, ok)

The original allegations against Cain were from two women in the National Restaurant Association, both of whom received settlements (from the NRA, not from Cain).

No criminal or civil suits were ever filed. No charges brought.

I don’t know what happened between Bialek and Cain. I don’t pretend to know.

But you don’t know either and there is no proof of any misconduct ever perpetrated by Herman Cain that has been brought forward at any time.

If you’ve seen a report claiming otherwise I’d love to see it.

Since when is it journalistically acceptable to print a story without having any proof?

Again, Cain may be guilty, but there’s no proof he is. There’s no sworn statement in court, not even papers from the NRA’s investigation having been made public.

There’s no penalty for Bialek making these accusations because Cain is a public figure. Proving malice in a libel case against a public figure is exceedingly difficult.

There’s absolutely nothing substantive to show that any of these stories have any merit and the fact that the media ever moved forward with them is an unmitigated disaster.

When Politico printed its initial story, it ought to have made clear when information it did and did not have. Subsequent media outlets should have followed up, attempted to gain additional information, while also admitting what information it did and did not have.

A person facing a crime is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. We use this system because breaking the law is a serious threat to the liberty of our fellow person.

It should be unconscionable then, to undermine the importance of our judicial system and degrade the plights of those truly abused, by trying someone in the court of public opinion without evidence.

The outcome is known ahead of time, the damage to Cain’s reputation done. Cain was “guilty” when Politico released its story because the publication of the accusations legitimized them, even if they were illegitimate.

The “trial” in the court of public opinion is a misnomer, because no evidence needs to be submitted and there’s no judge to be the arbiter of what is allowable versus what isn’t.

We can’t penalize someone in this country for breaking the law without proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, they’re guilty.

Herman Cain was never found guilty, never even reported to the police, and this was by reasonable and mature adults, not some teenager abused and manipulated by a sadistic adult.

Doesn’t mean he’s not guilty. He could be.

Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, people can be found guilty without there being any evidence worth convicting.

A journalistically boundless media is to thank for that.

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