Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Are Herman Cain's right-wing defenders exempt from the journalism code of ethics?

Sharon Bialek, the fourth woman to come forward alleging that Cain sexually harassed her (and the first to report what sounds like assault) is not only the latest "alleged" victim of Cain, she's the latest victim of Cain's conservative apologists.

To be fair to Cain, it's possible that this sexual harassment scandal (or four) is nothing more than the usual blowback any politically powerful man should expect from a disgruntled former co-worker (or four), and that the claims (all four of them) are indeed, as Cain believes, nothing more than the political handiwork of a disgruntled fellow presidential candidate – Rick Perry.

At this point, it doesn't really matter. Cain has no intentions of admitting publicly that any of this took place. It does not appear likely that he will apologize to these women, let alone acknowledge their claims. (And why should he? It was the '90s, after all. Everybody was doing it!)

The media circus surrounding this scandal isn't likely to fade. More women are likely to come forward, and Cain will likely continue to protest how journalists do their jobs. But Cain and the (four) victims of his extra-marital sexual proclivities, his advances, harassment, and apparent assault, are not the only story.

As disgusting as these accusations are (that is, what Cain "allegedly" did), the conservative media's response is almost worse.

The card-carrying character assassins of the Republican sound machine are already jumping into their expected roles as contract-obligated defenders of the misogynists within the Republican Party, and they're hard at work painting the "alleged" victims as nothing more than two-dollar whores looking to make a name for themselves and to get their picture in National Enquirer.

The counter-assault is now in full swing.

Sean Hannity said after the news story broke (in Politico) that it is "baseless," a "hit piece," and a "smear." Dick Morris, himself no virgin to sex scandals, called Bialek "a gold-digger" who's looking for a book deal, a film deal or "a spread in Playboy" magazine. And Cal Thomas seems convinced this is part of a larger Democratic Party conspiracy to "drive a stake" through the hearts of anyone who challenges President Obama.

But perhaps even more offensive than that, if that's possible, was Rush Limbaugh, who instantly turned the accuser into a porn star simply based on his chosen pronunciation of her name: "Gloria Allred says her name is Bialek, as in (slurp, slurp) – buy a lick. There's no 'R' in the name so you can't say it's 'Rent-a-lick'... I don't know if Ms. Buy-a-lick likes scented candles or not. I don't know. How's that relevant? That hasn't been mentioned. We don't know if she's been to Happy Valley…we're still waiting for all of these details to be forthcoming."

If a little girl comes forward and tells school administrators that she was grabbed and groped on several occasions in inappropriate places by a boy in her class; if she says, in a voice so soft and so quiet it's almost inaudible, that she only recently came forward to report it because she was scared and embarrassed, and because she thought she would get into trouble, should the school administrators brush it off, make fun of the little girl, mock her name, tell her she dresses too provocatively (at 11 years old), and defend the "alleged" perpetrator as the victim of some liberal feminist smear campaign? Should this girl be called a gold-digger, a publicity whore? 
Would it at all be appropriate if the media, upon reporting this story, were to make any of these claims?

I ask only because the story of the little girl is true. It's true every day in every city across the country. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, molestation... these things actually happen, daily. In this girl's case, she's a minor, and therefore safe from the punditry wolves.

But isn't it nice to know that if the same thing were to happen to her as an adult, she would be mocked, undermined, and attacked in the media, on television and the radio as a con artist and a liar without a shred of evidence to disprove anything she said.

On Sunday, Cain's campaign sent out passages from the Society of Professional Journalists's Code of Ethics. I wonder, did he send it to Limbaugh and Morris, Hannity and Fox News? Particularly the parts about showing good taste and compassion for those adversely affected by news coverage? 

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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  • Ma'am. How many women do you think have come into contact with Cain in his career? Hundreds? Thousands? It is completely plausible (if not probable) that a few women would be enticed into the spotlight, especially given the voracity by which his opponents do not want him to succeed to the nomination and eventually the Presidency. I abhor sexual discrimination in EVERY form. But I equally abhor when the accusation is used as a weapon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 PM  

  • Stunningly invidious comment! So we're to believe that because Herman Cain is such an unsuitable candidate on so many levels that any accusation, no matter how credible must have no merit? Even if he's already settled with the accuser? And you don't like accusations because an accusation is a weapon? So if I tell you to kiss my ass, you can't complain because, after all, that's a weapon and we don't like weapons. Jesus! Might as well close the courts folks.

    Yes, it's the "Voracity" -- the public's appetite for justice that makes him innocent. Imagine Adolph Mengele running for office -- how much the more innocent would he be for being guilty?

    Oh by the way -- kiss my ass.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:43 AM  

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