Cain Spokesman: ‘Smear Campaign Meant to Discredit a True Patriot’
UPDATE: Former Campaign Aide Says Cain’s Behavior ‘Never Even Bordered on Inappropriate in the Slightest’
Posted on | October 30, 2011 | 140 Comments
Ron Magruder, Denise Marie Fugo and Joseph Fassler, the chair, vice chair and immediate past chairman of the National Restaurant Association board of directors at the time of Cain’s departure, said they hadn’t heard about any complaints regarding Cain making unwanted advances.
“I have never heard that. It would be news to me,” said Fugo, who runs a Cleveland, Ohio, catering company, adding such behavior would be totally out of character for the Cain she knew. “He’s very gracious.”
Fassler, who helped bring Cain on board as CEO of the restaurant association, said that any inappropriate behavior was not brought to his attention and that he would be upset to learn it had gone on and he was not made aware of it.
“That’s a shock to me,” Fassler said. “As an officer during all of Herman’s years there as a paid executive… none of that stuff ever surfaced to me. Nobody ever called me, complained about this, nor did I ever hear that from Peter Kilgore, nor did I ever hear that from Herman Cain.”
Fassler — who ran a Phoenix food-service company and finished his term as chairman the month before Cain’s June 1999 departure but remained on the board’s executive committee — described Cain as treating men and women identically and asserted it was “not within his character” to make unwanted advances. “It’s not what I know of him,” Fassler said.
Much like Fassler, almost all board members remember Cain fondly and say he left on good terms.
Cain was “extremely professional” and “fair” to female staffers at the restaurant association, recalled Lee Ellen Hayes, who said she “worked fairly closely with” Cain in the late 1990s, when she was an executive at the National Restaurant Association Education Fund, a Chicago-based offshoot of the group.
Cain’s treatment of women was “the same as his treatment of men. Herman treated everyone great,” said Mary Ann Cricchio, who was elected to the board of the restaurant group in 1998. She said Cain left such a good impression on the organization that when he spoke at a group event in January of this year, as he was considering a presidential bid, “he had unanimous support in the room.”
We know nothing about the accusers and the specifics of the accusations from a dozen years ago are reported rather vaguely by Politico: “episodes that left the women upset and offended” and “physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”
All in all, it’s a long run for a short slide. Unless and until we have some specifics — including names, dates and places — my instinct is to agree with Gordon that this is “part of a smear campaign.”
Why are Cain’s enemies firing the thermonuclear component of their oppo-research arsenal so early? Generally speaking in such matters, you save your big stuff for later in the campaign.
UPDATE: A commenter reminds us of the Inept Elevator Nerd incident, which prompted Rebecca Watson to lecture her fellow atheists about how it “creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.” The basic problem is that, absent a court proceeding, “harassment” is an accusation impossible to refute. And if you can get tens of thousands of dollars in “go-away” money by making such an accusation, hell, why not?
UPDATE II: A female Republican operative who worked on Herman Cain’s 2004 Georgia Senate campaign scoffs at the accusations against him. “I don’t believe story that Cain behaved inappropriately,” wrote the woman, who uses the Twitter handle @KarolNYC. “He never even bordered on inappropriate in the slightest,” she Tweeted, and added that she ”just can’t believe there’s anything to the charges.”
Cain’s supporters are furious and there is widespread suspicion that the Politico story was the result of opposition-research by Cain’s GOP rivals.
Many women who know Cain are prepared to vouch for his character.
UPDATE IV: J.D. Gordon’s call-in to Geraldo didn’t go well:
UPDATE V: Thanks to the commenter who pointed out that on Friday, the Arizona state coordinator for the Rick Perry campaign Tweeted this:
This is (a) intriguing, but (b) not actually proof that the Perry campaign was dishing “oppo” on Cain. It so happens that I spoke by phone with Mrs. Bolick last year during a visit to Arizona with my blog buddy Barbara Espinosa. Mrs. Bolick is a nice lady, but we are left to wonder where she he might have heard about this “not pretty” opposition research.
UPDATE VI (Smitty): Linked by Ed Driscoll. Does it count as ‘First Blood’, though?
UPDATE VII (Smitty): More thoughts at ResCon1.