Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Is Cain's View That Voters Have No Right To Know Of Harassment Past?

Herman Cain.
Carolyn Kaster
Herman Cain.

Herman Cain's campaign spent late Wednesday accusing the rival presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry of unleashing the information that he had sexual harassment settlements in his background, an allegation the Texan's campaign has denied.

As Politico reported, Cain called out the Perry campaign directly during a Tea Party event:

"We've been able to trace it back to the Perry campaign that stirred this up in order to discredit me," Cain said at a tele-town hall held by "The fingerprints of the Rick Perry campaign are all over this, based on our sources."

Cain and Mark Block, his chief of staff and one of the world's most famous cigarette smokers, have seized on the recent addition in the Perry campaign of Curt Anderson, a political operative who worked on Cain's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign in Georgia. Cain apparently told Anderson of one of the sexual harassment settlements that occurred when Cain was chairman of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

The Perry campaign has issued an unequivocal denial that it had anything to do with the revelations.

Noteworthy in all of this are the continued attempts by Cain and his campaign to make a King Lear defense, that is, that he is "a man more sinn'd against than sinning."

The implication is that Cain apparently believes a few things about politics that aren't necessarily so. One, that it would be against the rules of how political campaigns are conducted for one campaign to leak negative information about a rival.

Obviously, there are no such rules. The sharing of deleterious information about a rival candidate by another campaign happens all the time.

In fact, some might argue that if one campaign had factual information that reflected poorly on the character of a rival candidate, it would be political malpractice not to get that information into the public's hands. Not that the Perry campaign did that. But if it did, so what? Once again, I must summon up that famous Finley Peter Dunne line: "Politics ain't beanbag."

Two, and more important, voters have a right to know if a man who wants to be president has a history of sexual harassment settlements.

To be accused of such behavior and to have had one's organization pay money to the targets of one's unwanted attentions is no doubt embarrassing and the kind of thing few presidential candidates would want to discuss publicly.

But just because it's embarrassing and raises questions about one's suitability to be a major party's nominee, let alone president, doesn't mean the public has no right to know the information.

Voters do have that right. After assessing the information for themselves they still care to support a candidate, that's democracy at work. But they have the right to know.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.