Female conservatives offered mixed reactions to a report from Politico that current Republican presidential front-runner Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment by two women in the 1990s when he led the National Restaurant Association.
There have, generally, been two camps: those expressing sensitivity to the challenges of women in the workforce while avoiding jumping to conclusions about Cain, and those who forcefully condemn what they see as a liberal hit piece on an effective conservative.
“Any man or woman who dares to poison the workplace or complicate career opportunity with sexual harassment should not be tolerated,” Sonja Eddings Brown, president of the fiscally conservative women’s group The Kitchen Cabinet, told TheDC. “An equally important principle is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Herman Cain has shown nothing but class, courtesy and professionalism while pursuing the presidency. The Kitchen Cabinet believes that Herman Cain deserves to have time to provide his own explanation and we await the facts.”
Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, however, did not mince words, charging the women who brought the allegations against Cain with greed and questioning why the women did not want to be named.
“We have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. It always ends up being an employee who can’t perform or who under-performs and is looking for a little green,” she said, adding, “How much money did it take for you to swallow your principles? ‘Oh, I was so offended.’ So in other words, you lose the fact that you’re offended if you’re paid money? Does anyone understand that? If something was truly horrible, then why wouldn’t you just stand up, ‘I want to be known, my name — I want my name to be out there.’”
President and CEO of the socially conservative group Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance, as a former victim of sexual harassment was less flippant, explaining that having once resigned from a job herself due to sexual harassment (without a financial settlement), she takes such charges very seriously. (RELATED: Ingraham echoes call for ‘Occupy Politico’ movement [AUDIO])
According to Nance, however, the way Politico characterized Cain in their article conflicts with the Herman Cain she knows. Nance said that she would need more information before coming to a conclusion about the GOP front-runner.
“Herman Cain has only been 100% respectful and deferential to me,” she told TheDC in an emailed statement. “I have never heard other women in conservative political circles complain of his behavior and they would complain loudly … Before I besmirch Herman Cain’s [character] I would need more than this. I just find it difficult to believe that if this is true why he was not fired? It’s one thing to have a single allegation but another to have two and then a pay out with no ramifications.”
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter questioned whether the allegations even constituted sexual harassment.
“It’s not groping, it’s not touching or demanding sex,” Coulter said Sunday night on Fox News. “It’s that he had remarks that they found inappropriate. One is he had inappropriate gestures that were not overtly sexual. Well, what were they then? This isn’t dropping your pants and saying ‘kiss it.’ This is an outrageous attack on a black conservative who is doing extremely well and will be our vice-presidential candidate.”
Sabrina Schaeffer, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, walked the line between sensitive and politically charged, telling TheDC that she would really like to see more details about the harassment before she says anything definitive — especially since the sources in Politico’s story were unnamed.
“IWF absolutely condemns sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, but we also realize that high profile accusations like this often are not about sexual harassment, they are in fact about politics. So I think we want to make sure we do not allow this to become trial by media,” Schaeffer told TheDC.
Schaeffer added that to discount political motives would be a mistake, as Cain is a threat to the establishment mindset.
“Bottom line is that Cain is a very attractive candidate who also happens to be African American and I think that, as his press secretary alluded to, he has the potential to really shake up the election,” she said. “Whether or not he becomes the nominee and I think in that regard he is a real threat to the Left’s idea of identity politics. I think we need make sure we confirm the details of the allegations and confirm this is not a desperate act by the left to derail his campaign.”