In the week since Politico broke the story that presidential candidate Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s, the media flocked to the controversy. Before the revelation of the allegations, Cain was experiencing a surprising rise from lower-tier candidate to frontrunner, with his 9-9-9 economic plan, unconventional campaign tactics, and his sense of humor gaining him both poll points and donor dollars. His campaign is only now seeing the toll the scandal is taking on his popularity ratings, but from the first accusation, Cain has been critical of the media's coverage of the allegations, calling the controversy a "witchhunt." Many pundits agree, comparing it to the "high tech lynching" label some put on the the allegations brought by Anita Hill against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas 20 years ago. They blame the media for jumping on a story "short on fact but long on rumor, innuendo, and anonymous sources," as U.S. News opinion blogger Peter Roff suggests. He argues:
The mainstream media's record on issues like this is spotty, to put it mildly, and they have a lot to answer for. They followed the Democratic Party line from Gennifer Flowers to Paula Jones to Monica Lewinsky and beyond in an effort to help President Bill Clinton and, had it not been for Matt Drudge, they would have gotten away with it. They also did everything they could to bury the Sen. John Edwards "love child" story until the National Enquirer made it impossible to ignore. So how come Herman Cain is suddenly fair game, especially with a story as apparently thin and anonymously sourced as the one that appeared over the weekend?
Many Republicans worry that the scandal is distracting attention from issues like unemployment and the deficit that have dominated the campaign so far. Even Cain's 2012 GOP rivals have defended him. Speaking on the Today Show Monday morning, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said:
Herman Cain, I suspect, is getting far fewer questions, from citizens, about these kind of things than he is about jobs, about other things. And I just think there is a huge gap between the gossip that fascinates political reporters and the average person's concern about the price of housing, the availability of jobs, solving the budget deficit without crushing the middle class, a lot of things that frankly the substance level are dramatically more important to most Americans.
With a fourth woman coming forward with allegations Monday afternoon, it's unlikely that the media will back off the scandal just yet.
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